Court packing move would set a dangerous new low for NC GOP

State Supreme Court scales of justice illustrationIt’s hard to imagine that North Carolina conservatives could ever sink lower than they did during last March’s kangaroo special session of the General Assembly in which they took the execrable HB2 from the back of an envelope to state law in just a few hours. Unfortunately, as NC Policy Watch reporter Melissa Boughton reports this morning, they may be contemplating just such an effort.

Though state Democrats won control of the Supreme Court on Tuesday when Judge Mike Morgan defeated incumbent justice Bob Edmunds, legislative Republicans may be considering a plan to add two new justices to the court in a special session that would take place prior to the end of Gov. Pat McCrory’s term. McCrory would then be free to appoint the new justices and neither would have to face election until 2018.

How’s that for some remarkably underhanded dirty pool? This from Boughton’s story:

“There’s since been speculation that legislative leaders will force a vote in an emergency special session called to address Hurricane Matthew to add two additional associate justices in an effort to reestablish the Republican majority, a move that is allowed by the North Carolina Constitution.

Former Justice Bob Orr and Common Cause North Carolina Executive Director Bob Phillips both said Thursday that they’ve heard rumors about plans to expand the court.

House Speaker Tim Moore’s spokesman said Thursday that he would not be available for comment. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s spokespeople did not return a message for comment. Senate minority leader Dan Blue declined to comment.”

The story goes on to quote Orr, Phillips and other experts as decrying such a possible move as “dangerous,” “extreme,” “smarmy” and undermining the independence of the courts.

These critics are right, of course, but they’re also much too understated. Such a move would be better described as one of the lowest of all low and despicable acts that one can imagine elected officials in our state ever contemplating. It would be the kind of act rightfully associated with despots and tin pot dictatorships, with Putinism and banana republic coups d’état, and an outright assault on democratic government.

Let’s hope with all of our hearts that this capital city rumor is just that — a rumor born of post-election frustration — and that the men and women in charge of our state government still retain a measure of decency sufficient to cause them to dismiss this outrageous suggestion out of hand. If this is not the case, however, and state leaders are actually serious about such an idea, North Carolina is headed for uncharted waters and, quite likely, a profound political and constitutional crisis.

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