Another Senate leader refuses to disavow GOP court-packing scheme
Sen. Bob Rucho won’t say if lawmakers plan to add two more Republican justices to overturn control of the State Supreme Court
RALEIGH — During a press conference on Wednesday, Sen. Bob Rucho refused to rule out the possibility that lawmakers will use the upcoming special session on hurricane relief to pack the State Supreme Court with Republicans in order to regain ideological control of the court.
Rucho joins Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore in refusing to discuss the scheme to overturn the will of the voters by packing the court during the special session, which Gov. McCrory called on Wednesday for the second week in December.
“Lawmakers like Bob Rucho are falling all over themselves to avoid answering questions about the scheme to overturn election results because they didn’t like the outcome,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action. “North Carolina voters spoke clearly in November when they elected Roy Cooper and Mike Morgan, and Republicans should respect their will and dispense with these desperate schemes to hold onto power.”
Rucho treated the court-packing plan like a myth, but state lawmakers already tried and failed to pack the State Supreme Court back in 2013. Senate Bill 10 would have added two new justices to be appointed by Gov. McCrory, which the Charlotte Observer called “more than the winners enjoying the spoils. It is a dangerous abuse of power.”
It’s also worth noting that if Gov. McCrory did appoint two new justices on his way out of office, the justices would still likely have to stand for re-election in 2017 now that a special election has been called for the General Assembly. According to Article IV, Sec. 19 of the State Constitution, appointed justices hold their offices “until the next election for members of the General Assembly.”
Several lawmakers and judicial experts on both sides of the aisle have already denounced the court-packing scheme:
- Sen. Jeff Tarte, Republican state senator: ““That’s one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard of. I mean, we’ve got to quit doing stupid party politics when people are going in or going out of office.” (WSOC, 11/11/16)
- Bob Orr, former Republican Supreme Court Justice: “The only rationale would be partisan advantage” and added that he would oppose any move in that direction because it would undermine public confidence in the nonpartisan function of the court. (Charlotte Business Journal, 11/14/16)
- Richard Vinroot, former Republican Mayor of Charlotte: “I think it’s a terrible idea. I would very much oppose it. Court-packing is a terrible idea.” (Charlotte Business Journal, 11/14/16)
- Bob Phillips, Common Cause NC:“That something like this could even be contemplated and even talked about is dangerous,” Phillips said. “It’s not the will of the voters.” He said something like expanding a state’s highest court requires thoughtful, careful, lengthy discussion, and that this was more reminiscent of House Bill 2, which was rammed through legislation in a day, also in an emergency special session. “That really is unhealthy,” he added.” (NC Policy Watch, 11/11/16)