Courts & the Law, News

ICYMI: Mecklenburg District judges speak out against lawmakers’ effort to subdivide court districts

District Court judges in Mecklenburg County held a press conference before court earlier this week to speak out against Senate Bill 306.

The bill was introduced earlier this month and seeks to subdivide Mecklenburg County District Courts to mirror Superior Courts. It is sponsored by Mecklenburg Republicans, Sen. Jeff Tarte and Sen. Dan Bishop.

WBTV covered the press conference, at which the Mecklenburg County judges said the bill would change the way they are elected.

Currently, the judges have county-wide elections. But the bill would subdivide the county into districts and have judges run in the judges where they live.

“This would essentially take away the right of citizens like me in Mecklenburg County to vote for 2/3rd of the judges who sit in this county,” said Judge Regan Miller.

Tarte said in the article that he believes the bill will help voters get to better know judicial candidates, since there will be less per subdivided county.

Opponents argue the bill is a way to get more Republicans elected to the bench. A large population of the current judges there are affiliated with the Democratic party.

WBTV reported that the District Court judges say the bill could lead to an imbalance on the district court bench.

“Over the past 15 years county-wide, non-partisan elections have produced a district court bench in Mecklenburg County that is evenly split between male and female judges, white and black judges. And there is even diversity in respect to geography. Now, this is a model for diversity that we as a county should be proud of,” Judge Miller said. “With respect to party diversity, judges who are registered as republicans in this county have demonstrated that they can win election and re-election to their seats when voters are simply allowed to concentrate on the levels of their intelligence, education, experience, integrity, compassion and reverence for the rule of law.”

Judge Miller said the current bill “will do little to improve the geographical diversity of the bench and will only prevent more judges from moving closer to their place of work.” He said currently six district court judges live in each of two districts, and eight live in one district.

Judges say they’re concerned the legislature is infringing on judicial independence.

You can read the full article here.

Check the NC Policy Watch website next week for a deeper dive into SB 306.

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