Courts & the Law, Legislature, News

Senator: Court packing on everyone’s mind despite most still being ‘in the dark’ on potential legislation

Sen. Dan Blue at a podium

Democratic leader, Sen. Dan Blue addressed the court packing rumor at a press conference Tuesday before the special session. Photo by Rob Schofield

The special legislative session is well under way, and while there still has been no official word on a GOP scheme to pack the state Supreme Court, it’s very much on people’s minds.

Democratic leader, Sen. Dan Blue, from Wake County, held a press conference before the session started to call attention to the possibility of a Supreme Court expansion, and to condemn any bills that do not solely address disaster relief after Hurricane Matthew and recent wildfires in the west.

“Rumors often run rampant here in Raleigh as most of you know,” he said. “There’s something about rumors though, that if you respond to them definitively one way or another, you can usually put them to rest. And the Republicans have been more than happy to let the rumor mill keep churning, churning and burning.”

He said there hasn’t been productive conversation from Republican leaders, so Democrats are “in the dark like everyone else.”

“I’ve asked and nobody has said they’re going to do it; nobody has said they’re not going to do it; some have said, ‘we’re looking at it,'” Blue said.

He called the idea to expand the court unethical and immoral and said it would use people who need immediate assistance as political pawns. Sen. Ben Clark, D-Cumberland, Hoke, joined Blue at the press conference and spoke about the damage from the hurricane in his district.

“Our district was inundated by the floodwaters ushered in by Hurricane Matthew,” he said. “Let us dedicate the full extent of our focus here during this special session for the recovery of the disasters that have befallen our state and provide our citizens with answers. It’s time for our state to step up to the task.”

Sen. Ben Clark and Sen. Dan Blue stand at a podium

Sen. Ben Clark, D-Cumberland, Hoke, spoke at a press conference Tuesday about Hurricane Matthew damage in his districts. Photo by Rob Schofield

Blue and Clark both said those residents affected by the natural disasters should be the focus of all North Carolinians, but instead everyone in the state was thinking about court packing.

Blue also said there was no workload to justify an expansion of the high court, and that such a move would be done to nullify a branch of government, destroying the idea of three independent branches of government and checks and balances.

There was a second press conference held by progressive advocates who have concerns about ulterior motives during the special session.

Rev. William Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP, said there were doubts to believe court packing was just a rumor.

“To engage in manipulation of the courts while people’s lives are still in crises is just wrong,” he added.

House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters at the session that he does not expect a bill to expand the Supreme Court to be introduced.

The only bill that has been filed in the session thus far is the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 in the House, but there is still time for more filings. The House has until 5 p.m. today to file any new bills, and the Senate has until noon Wednesday.

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