Commentary

Weekend editorials agree: GOP assault on the state courts is shameful

Multiple editorials in the state’s major news dailies this past weekend agreed: The ongoing effort to raze and remake the state courts by Republican legislators is simply outrageous.

Here’s the Winston-Salem Journal in “Shameful power grabs”:

North Carolina made the national news again Thursday, but not because of our recovering economy, our beautiful and irreplaceable vistas or the warmth of our people. Instead, we’ve been tagged for our state legislature’s overreaching push to change the makeup of our courts to favor Republican judges….

Politics has always been part of judicial races. Even though most of these races have long been nonpartisan, it’s been clear what parties candidates belong to.

But the GOP-dominated legislature has injected politics into these races like never before.

And, after discussing the plan to decision to cancel next spring’s primary elections for judges, the Greensboro News & Record puts it this way in “Legislature sows disorder in court”:

It’s also possible there won’t be any judicial elections at all. Legislators could advance a measure to replace judicial elections with a “merit selection” process. A proposed constitutional amendment to enact such a system could go on the ballot as soon as May, leaving little time for the public to evaluate such a significant change.

Or legislators could take up another disruptive proposal introduced this week. It would reduce all judicial terms to two years — even for judges who were elected to four-year or eight-year terms just last year. All would have to run again in 2018.

This is legislating by Keystone Kops. Is there any reason behind it, or is the idea to confuse voters and sow chaos into North Carolina’s judicial branch of government? “Disorder in the court” is the likely outcome of so much political upheaval.

And this is from an editorial entitled “Republicans politicizing state courts” in the Wilmington Star News that blasts the primary cancellation and a plan introduced by Senator Bill Rabon to cancel every judicial term and make all judges run every two years:

Apparently, Republicans in the legislature have been losing to Gov. Roy Cooper, that confessed Democrat, in court challenges of their efforts to strip him of any and all meaningful powers.

We are told this amendment would go before the voters in May. If it passes, the new, short-time judges would be elected in November.

This measure, we’re told, would make the judges more “accountable.”

Accountable to whom? Judges aren’t like county commissioners (or state legislators). We don’t want their opinions shifting with the winds of popular opinion, or the latest party line. We want them to enforce the law and to protect people’s rights….

The result will be all too predictable. Fewer and fewer first-rate legal minds will even bother trying to be judges. The bench will be stocked with political hacks, chosen on the basis of party loyalty. Justice will become an accident.

The Republican GOP can override any of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes they please, thanks to the canine loyalty of types such as Sen. Rabon.

Amendments to the constitution, though, still have to get by voters in one big, non-gerrymandered district — the entire state. North Carolinians should vote this one down.

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