Commentary, Defending Democracy

Editorial calls GOP scheme to slash judicial terms “a travesty”

In case you missed it over the weekend, the Sunday editorial in the Wilmington Star News joined a long list of critics to blast the latest Republican assaults on the state courts. The editorial reserved some of its sharpest criticism for Senate Bill 698 — a cockamamie plan to make every judge in the state run for election every two years. Here’s the conclusion to the editorial:

“This system, of course, means that judicial races will become as political as the legislature. Judges will be constantly running for re-election, will be ever more dependent on campaign contributions — and dependent on corporate and special interests.

It’s a bad idea, denounced both by Republican and Democrat judges. But Republican Honorables, angry that state courts have occasionally ruled against them, seem determined that no one will thwart them at all.

And that’s still not all. The Republicans have already shrunk the size of the N.C. Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12, in a transparent effort to ensure that Gov. Cooper will have no chance to appoint one during his term.

They’re currently redrawing the state’s judicial districts, a process denounced by Democrats and independents as blatantly partisan and devoid of any real debate. Democrats walked out earlier this month when the redistricting panel refused even to listen to a distinguished retired judge sent by Gov. Cooper to testify.

Senate Bill 698 hasn’t passed yet, but it’s likely to sneak up for a vote when the legislature reconvenes in 2018. Capital watchers say this is just a first step toward Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger’s stated goal of ‘merit selection.’ Under it, state judges would be appointed … by the legislature.

This is a travesty, and North Carolina voters had better be ready to squawk — and to march to the polls if the Republicans in Raleigh don’t mend their ways.”

 

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