TRIAL COURT ELECTIONS PARTISAN AGAIN LOOKS RIPE FOR VETO (AP) -- The Republican-controlled General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday to legislation officially making all local trial court elections in North Carolina partisan affairs again, a decision that appears ripe for Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to issue his first veto. "I have real concerns about throwing judicial elections back to the partisan arena," Cooper said Tuesday. "I think it's important that they stay out of that as much as possible. I don't like it." But the bill cleared both the House and Senate in final votes by veto-proof margins, meaning the chance a veto would be overridden is high. Wednesday's 74-43 vote was largely along party lines.
GOP'S LATEST POWER SHIFT WOULD TAKE JUDGES' APPOINTMENTS (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A trio of bills moving through the state House would limit the governor’s ability to appoint judges, reflecting a pattern that has pitted Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper against Republican legislators since his election last year. A House judiciary committee approved the bills Wednesday on votes of 7-6, split along party lines with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. The proposals are scheduled go to the full House on Thursday.
RAISE-THE-AGE BILL GAINS STEAM IN ONE OF THE LAST STATES TO PROSECUTE 16-YEAR-OLDS AS ADULTS (Raleigh News & Observer) -- After decades of work and some failed attempts, there’s considerable steam behind an effort to give the juvenile criminal-justice system jurisdiction over 16- and 17-year-olds so they have a chance to bounce back from nonviolent crimes and low-level offenses. Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, on Wednesday filed House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act. The bill establishes that a 16- or 17-year-old who commits certain crimes will be tried as a juvenile – not as an adult. North Carolina is one of two states that automatically prosecute people as young as 16 as adults.
PROBE SOUGHT AFTER AP REPORT ON CHURCH ABUSE ALLEGATIONS (AP) -- A district attorney has asked the state to investigate two assistant prosecutors after an Associated Press story that quoted former congregants of a North Carolina church as saying the men derailed criminal probes into allegations of abuse by sect leaders. The AP story, released Monday, cited nine former Word of Faith members who said Frank Webster and Chris Back provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member. The ex-congregants also said that Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley's son-in-law, helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents.