With the surprising outcome of the presidential election and the uncertainty about who won the governor’s race in North Carolina, you may not have seen the latest news about our state’s judicial races.
Last week, Judge Mike Morgan, a candidate we endorsed, defeated incumbent Justice Bob Edmonds for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court. This is a great outcome for North Carolina workers.
With Morgan’s election, the N.C. Supreme court will shift from Republican control to a 4-3 Democratic majority. And some Republican lawmakers aren’t happy about that, and they have a plan to undermine the will of the people and pack the court with unelected justices appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory before the end of his term.
The state high court is currently comprised of a Chief Justice and six associate justices, but the N.C. Constitution allows for nine justices.
The N.C. General Assembly is set to convene a special session next month regarding relief for Hurricane Matthew. The plan by some ranking state senators and representatives is to introduce and pass legislation to expand the N.C. Supreme Court to nine seats during that special session.
But voters wouldn’t get to choose the justices to fill those seats. The governor is expected to appoint two partisan judges — packing the state’s highest court and ignoring the will of the people.
This cannot happen, and it should not happen. There’s no good reason to expand the N.C. Supreme Court, whose workload has not increased significantly over the last 10 years, according to an official review of the state appellate court system.
As state Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue told WRAL, “This is the height of disrespect of state’s voters. To add justices just because they don’t like the outcome of the election is outrageous.”
Voters are already calling their state legislators in opposition to this court-packing scheme. And some are being told that the proposed bill is “just a rumor.”
But rest assured, there’s more than rumor behind these reports. This could happen, and it could happen quickly. So it’s important for North Carolina voters to oppose this underhanded attempt to change the makeup of our state’s highest court.
Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the state legislature and an expert on state election law, told N.C. Policy Watch a court-packing bill could be presented and passed in in one day, the same way HB2 was passed.
Find out who represents you in the N.C. General Assembly and who to contact about N.C. Supreme Court packing here.