Commentary

Columnist blasts Justin Burr’s partisan judicial redistricting plan

In case you missed it yesterday, veteran columnist Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record had an excellent essay this week on the ongoing efforts of North Carolina Republican lawmakers (led by Rep. Justin Burr) to remake the state’s judiciary into partisan and less representative branch of government. Here’s Clark in “Next target for GOP gerrymandering is District Court”:

“Partisan gerrymandering soon could find its way into a new area of public life: District Court.

If it happens, it will mark another step by our legislature to exert more control over the other supposedly co-equal branches of state government.

House Bill 717 was introduced by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) in April but not acted on by the time the legislature adjourned in June. However, it’s likely to come up for consideration in a special session later this year.

It redraws Superior and District Court districts all across the state to create political advantages for Republicans.”

After dissecting what Burr’s plan would mean for Guilford County (basically, it would assure the election of lots more Republican judges), and pointing out the legislature has already taken away Governor Cooper’s power to fill court vacancies and bestowed the power upon itself, Clark concludes this way:

“I prefer countywide elections of District Court judges for a nonpartisan reason. If you have business in District Court, every judge you see is someone you had a chance to vote for or against. That will no longer be true if Burr’s plan is enacted. You’ll only get to vote for half the judges, even though all of them will sit in Guilford County courtrooms. This bill cuts your voting power in half. But its purpose is partisan.

That doesn’t make sense in terms of District Court business — drunken driving, juvenile matters and so on. However, the House passed another bill this year that makes it important for Republicans to win more District Court seats….

Burr, along with several Guilford legislators, met with local judges last week. While their discussion was cordial, I’m told, the judges weren’t sold on these changes — which include redistricting for Superior Court, too.

Burr did not respond to my phone call and email to his office seeking comment. Rep. John Faircloth, a High Point Republican who arranged Friday’s meeting, defended the goal of seating more Republican judges who would better represent the views of Republican voters. The courts lean too heavily in favor of Democrats now, he said.

Faircloth added that the current proposal is ‘a long way from being finished.’

I think we can see where it’s going. The legislature wants to create partisan courts, fix elections to favor GOP candidates and employ politicized judges to serve its purposes. Can someone please rule this scheme out of order?

Lawmakers are, of course, in town this week (and will be in coming weeks) for the supposed purpose of “fixing” their unconstitutionally gerrymandered legislative districts. Ironically, in keeping with the shameless persistence they bring to so many of their nefarious efforts, it looks quite possible that they’ll seize the opportunity presented by these sessions to rig some other elections while they’re here.

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