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One of today’s most important “must reads” is reporter Sharon McCloskey’s story about a bill rammed through the General Assembly during the session’s waning hours to drastically alter the state’s system of handling complaints against judges.

“It started out as a simple bill allowing parties in family court to appeal rulings before their cases were finally resolved.

By the time it landed on the House floor for a final vote, one of the last bills on the last day of the long session, it had a new name, a new number and a new purpose: to give the justices of the state Supreme Court the sole authority to discipline judges — including themselves –and allow them to decide if, when and who to discipline in secret.

And the back story of the passage of the bill, H652 — including the rare public lobbying by Republican justices in favor of the bill and opposition from the Democratic Chief Justice — illustrates that, despite claims otherwise, money and politics may in fact be dividing the Court.”

Click here to read this important story and, hopefully, share it with folks you know.

President Obama announced today that he would nominate Jennifer May-Parker to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. May-Parker will fill the nearly-eight year vacancy created when Judge Malcolm Howard stepped down in 2005.

A graduate of the State University of New York, May-Parker is currently the Chief of the Appellate Division at the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of North Carolina, a position she has held since 2010. She started her career as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. She then worked as an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Environmental Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice before moving on to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1999.

Despite overwhelming support for the program from judges, voters and former governors, Republicans in the House have stepped in line with the Governor and their colleagues in the Senate and proposed in their budget, released today (at page 12), to eliminate public funding for judicial campaigns. 

Someone is really holding their feet to the fire on this one.

Here’s a quick look at the impact that the House budget (being released in piecemeal fashion) would have on the courts:

Magistrates: Adds 16 magistrates to counties currently with only three, in line with the Governor’s proposal. The Senate proposed restoring 39.5 magistrate positions, to four magistrates per county, at a cost of $1.8 million.

Court reporters: No cuts to state court reporters, in line with the Governor’s budget. The Senate had proposed cutting court reporting funds and positions by half, with the savings to be used for contracts with private vendors.

Administrative Office of the Courts: Reduces the AOC budget by $3 million, in line with the Senate budget.

Funds for interpreters, expert witnesses and jury fees: Appropriates $1 million, in line with the Senate and the Governor.

Special Superior Court Judges: No cuts, in line with the Governor’s budget. The Senate proposed eliminating 12 Special Superior Court judgeships.

Drug Treatment Courts: No funding for Drug Treatment Courts, consistent with the Senate budget. The Governor’s budget appropriates $3.36 million to restore them statewide.

Prisoner Legal Services: Reduces that contract by $231,000 “to reflect decline in number of inmates,” consistent with the Governor’s budget. The Senate had proposed to eliminate the contract completely, using “prison legal terminals” instead.

 

Per their order entered on May 13, the three-judge panel handling the redistricting case will hold hearings today and tomorrow to consider specific factual issues before deciding the parties’ respective requests for judgment.

The judges have asked for testimony and additional evidence in two separate areas:

First, were challenged districts subject to the Voting Rights Act drawn in places where racially-polarized voting existed — i.e., where black voters in the minority of voters were unable to elect candidates of  their choice — and was the drawing of such districts a reasonable response under the Act?

And second, in certain districts not subject to the Act (Senate 31 and 32, House 51 and 54, Congressional 4 and 12), where a majority black voting population was not achieved during redistricting, is there additional evidence that race nonetheless was the predominant factor in drawing those districts?

The court has held in abeyance any ruling on these and other issues raised by the parties in their requests for judgment pending completion of these hearings.