Commentary, Courts & the Law

Not dead yet? Conservative website claims court-packing scheme could be on tap at special session.

For years now, rumors have persisted in North Carolina political circles that Republican legislative leaders were seriously considering the idea of adding two new justices to the state Supreme Court in order to eliminate or dilute the court’s Democratic majority. The scheme has always been fraught  with huge challenges — not the least of which at present is that: a) Democrats will enjoy a 5-2 majority come January and b) any new seats created would be filled until the 2020 election by Gov. Roy Cooper.

All that said, the rumor persists. This morning, the right-wing website known as the Daily Haymaker included a post entitled “#ncga: TWO MORE justices?” in which the author reported the following:

“I am hearing from sources inside and outside the legislative building in Raleigh that the GOP super-majority will attempt to use its last days in power to ram through an expansion of the state Supreme Court’s membership. Word is they will try to add TWO additional justices — basically cancelling out the gains by Democrats in the last two years.”

Though the idea makes little apparent sense — even the Haymaker dismisses the scheme as “a bad idea for many reasons” — one supposes that anything is possible when it comes to the current GOP leadership and its desperate ongoing efforts to cling to absolute power as long as humanly possible.

Another plausible explanation for the rumblings might simply be to provide cover for the other plans that Republicans are genuinely hatching for the Nov. 27 special legislative session. If North Carolinians get themselves all fired up to oppose court packing, maybe other, more likely schemes (like a new and restrictive voter ID law or other efforts to further erode the power of the Governor) will get lost in the shuffle and seem less objectionable.

Or, maybe, the Haymaker’s anonymous sources are simply all wet and the whole thing is just another wild, wacky and baseless rumor. That certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented for the website in question.

One thing that does seems certain, however, is that Republicans are indeed scheming about how to best take advantage of their remaining weeks of supermajority status on Jones Street. What’s more, caring and thinking North Carolinians ought to be watching carefully and preparing for action with great vigilance.

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