Courts & the Law, News

Surprise! Justin Burr announces maps on Twitter that would overhaul judicial, prosecutorial districts

Proposed prosecutorial districts

Rep. Justin Burr (R-Montgomery, Stanly) sent the legal community scrambling Sunday night when he tweeted out new prosecutorial and judicial district maps lawmakers will consider implementing this session.

“Attached are the maps for the PCS to HB 717 which will be heard tomorrow at 4 pm in Judiciary 1. #ncleg #ncpol,” tweeted Burr, who did not return a request for comment Monday.

The tweet included three maps that show new judicial divisions: prosecutorial districts, merged district courts and merged superior courts. The maps are dated June 23, and the bill they will be presented in is House Bill 717.

Burr’s tweet appears to be the first that judges and attorneys knew of the proposed maps, though it’s not the first bill aimed at changing the judiciary he’s introduced this session without input from the governmental branch.

Peg Dorer, director of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, was poring over the prosecutorial map Monday morning to determine how the changes would affect district attorneys.

“I just think this is a mess,” she said in a phone interview.

She said that changes to prosecutorial districts needed to be deliberative and careful.

One of the early concerns she pointed to was combining Robeson and Scotland counties into one prosecutorial district. Currently, Robeson County is its own district — Dorer described it as the most violent county in North Carolina and said it has more pending murder cases than any other area.

“Why put another district [with it]?” she asked.

She also expressed resource concerns with the new prosecutorial map combining Anson, Union and Richmond counties.

Proposed district court districts

As far as the judicial districts, representatives are still trying to understand all the surprise changes.

“Why did we learn about this on Twitter?” asked Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), a former judge. “People are upset. There’s no communication and they’re caught off-guard.”

She described the changes to the judicial branch as monumental. The consequences, she added, will be a dilution of quality judicial districts.

Morey questioned why the Administrative Office of the Courts wasn’t more communicative with the courts about the maps and said both lawyers and judges gathered for conferences over the last week in which representatives from the agency attended.

AOC spokeswoman Sharon Gladwell did not respond to an email asking if the agency knew about the maps before Burr announced them.

Jeremy Smith, a criminal defense attorney who practices state and federal law, said in looking at the maps for the first time that it was clear what lawmakers were trying to do.

“That’s what gerrymandered districts look like,” he said.

A former prosecutor, Smith said he has practiced on both sides and predicted the new maps, if passed, would cause a lot of upheaval.

Proposed superior court districts

“It seems to me that this changes a lot of who people will be going in front of asking for justice without really any explanation for it,” Smith added.

Advocates on Twitter condemned the maps, referring to them as judicial gerrymandering.

“Looks like some #ncga lawmakers plan to rig judicial maps for control of key cases. Tell them to stop their scheme:,” tweeted Democracy NC.

Some Democratic lawmakers also referred to the maps as an attempt to gain partisan control of the courts.

At a press conference Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters that the maps were an effort to “threaten” and “rig” the judiciary in their favor.

“What I’ve heard, it’s not good,” he said.

The maps will be discussed publicly at 4 p.m. today at the Judiciary I House Committee meeting in room 415 of the Legislative Office Building. You can listen to the meeting online here. You can see the state’s current maps here.

Commentary, News

Good news: Sen. Burr not optimistic about ACA replacement this year

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is making national news today with comments he made to WXII 12 News about the chances that the Senate will approve health care legislation this year to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Burr said he “doesn’t see a comprehensive health care plan this year”  and said the House bill that the CBO says will increase the number of people without insurance by 23 million is “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

The Wall Street Journal was the first national outlet to pick up on the comments, which were cited in the Talking Points Memo article.

Let’s hope Burr is right. He has plenty to work on anyway with the Russia investigation in his role as the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.


Senator Burr: Burden is on the New York Times to prove Comey memo exists

U.S. Senator Richard Burr is voicing skepticism about a New York Times report that President Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to shut down the investigation of national security advisor Michael Flynn.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told PBS NewsHour if Comey had written such a memo, the Times should produce it.

“Somebody is going to have to do more than just have anonymous sources on this one for me to believe that there’s something there.”

The NYT story came on the heels of a report from The Washington Post on Tuesday that suggested President Trump had shared highly-classified intelligence with Russia.

Trump tweeted earlier in the day he had the ‘right’ to share that data.

Click below to hear Senator Burr’s full interview with PBS NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardin:


Senate Intel Chairman Burr ‘troubled’ by Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey

Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey:

“I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination. I have found Director Comey to be a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal further confuses an already difficult investigation by the Committee. In my interactions with the Director and with the Bureau under his leadership, he and the FBI have always been straightforward with our Committee.  Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intelligence committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation.”


Burr must do his patriotic duty in Russia investigation

This morning’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer is on the money in pointing out that the nation is depending on North Carolina Senator Richard Burr to step up to the plate and get moving with the investigation in to Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process. Unfortunately, the signs are not encouraging:

“Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina assured the public that the Senate investigation he is charged with leading will be aboveboard. So far, it doesn’t look anything like the balm that could help heal the country’s political wounds. Recent reports from investigative reporters with Yahoo! News, The Daily Beast and CNN suggest the investigation is stalled even as sources claim Russia allegedly tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign through Trump advisers.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he’ll hold a hearing May 8. But the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn’t gathered documents or interviewed key witnesses three months into the probe. Though Democrats have requested evidence such as emails and phone records from the Trump campaign, Burr has yet to sign off on them. And the committee is lightly staffed and doesn’t include those with an intricate knowledge of Russia or have investigative skills….

Intelligence agencies have already determined that a combination of the propagation of Russia-inspired fake news and selectively timed leaks of sensitive emails from Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats through WikiLeaks had an impact on our elections. How to reckon with that reality responsibly to shield ourselves from further incursions is difficult enough. It’s a delicate dance, requiring a firm response without igniting an unnecessary war or hearkening back to the days of the Red Scare.

Without a full, complete nonpartisan investigation, the public will be ill-equipped to assess what policy responses make the most sense, making it that much more difficult to garner widespread support. We get the politics: Burr and his colleagues were sent to Washington to further the agenda of their respective parties. Their supporters expect nothing less.

But there are moments when a political party’s short-term goals must take a backseat to the country’s well-being. This is one of those times. Burr must seize it.”

Clearly, the time for action is now. Burr can show once and for all whether he is a patriotic American or an incompetent political hack in the days to come. Let’s hope for the former.