NC Republicans’ efforts in courts continue to undermine our judicial system

NC Republicans’ efforts in courts continue to undermine our judicial system

For years, North Carolina Republican legislators have passed numerous laws that serve to undermine our judiciary and place judges on the bench that will adhere to their colleagues’ bidding.

Historically, the judiciary branch of our government has been enshrined in impartiality and a commitment to fairness since our nation’s founding. Yet, the latest Republican efforts to meddle in the Leandro education funding and voting maps cases highlight the clear intent to undermine the legitimacy of the judiciary.

In the last few months, Republican leaders have repeatedly threatened to impeach justices who do not rule in their favor. Justice Paul Newby’s order to remove Judge Lee from overseeing the Leandro case in favor of his Republican colleague is a blatant example of the GOP finding ways to protect their own interests.

According to The News & Observer, under Justice Newby’s leadership, securing Republican colleagues in various positions has occurred several times before. He appointed Superior Judge Andrew Heath to head the Administrative Office of the Courts while letting go several of the office’s senior employees. Newby also appointed Republican state Supreme Court candidate Trey Allen, his former law clerk, as general counsel for the office.

Just recently, the resignation of an NC Court official after urging judges to avoid partisan attacks has been speculated to have been ousted by Republicans for her comment – in yet another example of the GOP scrubbing the court system of any opposition that will stand in their way.

From The News & Observer:

Carolyn Dubay, executive director of the Judicial Standards Commission for the past six years, abruptly left her position just days after a memo on the North Carolina Judicial Code of Conduct was posted on the commission’s website. The March 11 memo advised judges to avoid involvement in campaigns in years when they are not going before the voters. It was pulled from the website days later and replaced by a looser interpretation.

The memo was issued by Appeals Court Judge Chris Dillon, a Republican who chairs the Judicial Standards Commission, but it was prepared by staff. It was unclear if Dillon had read it. Dubay could not be reached for comment, but others familiar with the situation said she was pushed to resign over it.

A tighter interpretation of the code would inhibit politically active judges, including, say, Justice Phil Berger Jr., who supports Republican candidates even though he’s still early in his eight-year term. On Twitter, he recently endorsed Republican state Supreme Court candidate Trey Allen, calling him “a true conservative.” In another post, he said he was “thrilled to be on hand” as District Court Judge Beth Freshwater filed for a Republican primary challenge to Donna Stroud, the chief judge of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

In a commission podcast posted just days before her resignation, Dubay said, “(Judges) really do need to remember, in this very politically charged environment particularly, that maintaining that independence and professionalism is important and that their constituent is justice and fairness and not a political base.” She added, “We might have partisan elections for judges, but we don’t have partisan justice.”

Well, maybe we do.

North Carolina voters have made it clear that they want state courts to remain fair and impartial. Yet in the case of Justice Paul Newby and his Republican friends, securing control of the state Supreme Court outweighs the legitimacy of the judiciary.

Alanna Joyner

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