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Remember the “Star Chamber” bill, signed into law last summer by Gov. Pat McCrory? That’s the bill rushed into last minute passage giving the justices of the state Supreme Court the sole authority to discipline judges — including themselves – and allowing them to decide if, when and who to discipline in secret.

Aside from support from sitting Justices Mark Martin and Paul Newby — whom lawmakers then identified as pushing for passage — the bill drew widespread opposition from other judges and justices of the state Supreme Court as well as all living presidents of the state bar association, who in a letter asked the governor to refuse to sign it.

The bill became law nonetheless and, as current bar association president Catherine Arrowood notes in this News & Observer commentary, “for the first time in 40 years, North Carolina voters cast their ballots for judges without any information about pending judicial ethics complaints.”

In a call for repeal, Arrowood continues:

Permitting the Supreme Court to discipline itself does not have the ring of fairness. If a justice on the Supreme Court violates the Code of Judicial Standards while running for re-election or fails to recuse himself or herself appropriately, the Supreme Court itself will be conducting the hearing. And the public will not know about the fact of the proceeding unless and until the court decides if the justice accused is to be disciplined. I cannot imagine that the members of our court find this a palatable or proper process.


A secret trial behind closed doors is the hallmark of a totalitarian government (if indeed any trial is allowed at all), not a democracy. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that an accused, no matter his or her status, have a public and open trial. This presumption that our courts will be open, subject to very limited exceptions, also finds roots in the First Amendment. Under the First Amendment, the press and public must be allowed reasonable access to view proceedings in our courts.

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As we reported yesterday, the Justice for All NC PAC is poised for a last-minute ad blitz supporting Republican-endorsed candidates for the state Supreme Court, after receiving a fresh infusion of $400,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee this past week.

Now it appears that at least of some of that money is going toward a television ad from the Louisiana-based Innovative Advertising – which goes by the tagline “People Who Think” — supporting conservative Winston-Salem lawyer Mike Robinson, who’s challenging incumbent Justice Cheri Beasley.

The people who think didn’t have to dig too deep into the innovation barrel for this one, though.

Instead they’ve recycled the Paul Newby banjo ad (watch above) — also their creation — this time replacing the banjo with a guitar and the catch phrase from “Newby Tough but Fair” to “I Like Mike.”

Read more here from Chris Kromm at Facing South, and watch the Robinson video below.

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Bobby JindalMaybe it’s no coincidence that Senator Phil Berger’s new plan to cut taxes at the top, reduce public services and raise taxes on the working poor appears to have a lot in common with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s failed tax plan. It turns out the new and schnazzy website Berger unveiled today was produced by a conservative Louisiana ad firm – Innovative Advertising LLC.

As you can see by clicking here, the website domain www.nctaxcut.com is registered to: Read More

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A professor, an economist and a judge sat in a room, crunched the numbers and reached this conclusion: More often than not, judges (in this case federal judges)  vote along party lines.

So say Lee Epstein, a professor at the University of Southern California, William M. Landes, an economist at the University of Chicago, and Richard A. Posner, a federal appeals court judge in Chicago, in their new book, The Behavior of Federal Judges, previewed in today’s New York Times by Adam Liptak

“Justices appointed by Republican presidents vote more conservatively on average than justices appointed by Democratic ones, with the difference being most pronounced in civil rights cases,” they write in the book.

A recent decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejecting Michigan’s constitutional ban of affirmative action policies bears out that party allegiance, Liptak notes.  “Every one of the eight judges in the majority was nominated by a Democratic president,” he said. “Every one of the seven judges in dissent was nominated by a Republican president.”

As Liptak adds:

Many judges hate it when news reports note this sort of thing, saying it undermines public trust in the courts by painting them as political actors rather than how they like to see themselves — as disinterested guardians of neutral legal principles.

But there is a lot of evidence that the party of the president who appointed a judge is a significant guide to how that judge will vote on politically charged issues like affirmative action.

True, federal judges are appointed, and perhaps that’s the news peg here, as they’ve long been perceived as above the fray of electoral posturing and politicking.

Is it any different in places where judges are elected?  Nobody’s run the numbers yet,  but one thing’s likely.  Judges who campaign are well-versed in the partisan give-and-take.

 

 

 

 

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Exit polls apparently won’t be able to tell us if the banjo-strumming “Newby – Tough but Fair” ad attracted or alienated voters in the contest between Justice Paul Newby and Court of Appeals Judge Same Ervin IV, but if election results are the test, the ad worked.

Just ask Louisiana-based Innovative Advertising, the self-proclaimed preeminent Gulf South advertising firm which produced the ad and did the media buys for the NC Judicial Coalition and is now touting the ad on its website as “a jingle so funny and catchy that it has become a popular new ringtone in North Carolina.”

The company has plenty of reasons for its swagger, given its payday  from the ad.

The Judicial Coalition, formed to support Newby’s re-election, kept pumping money into ad buys until the very end of the campaign, thanks to  noteworthy  last-minute contributions from the likes of SAS chairman Jim Goodnight, $25,000, and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s PAC, Next Century Fund, $10,000. The state Republican Party also threw in $50,000 in the final days and the NC Chamber, another $25,000 to lift its total to $188,700.

And the pass-through PAC, Justice for All NC, continued funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars  into the Judicial Coalition’s coffers – up to $1.5 million at last count —  thanks to ongoing contributions it received from the Republican State Leadership Committee, which totaled $1,165,000.  Also making late contributions to Justice for All:  Lorillard Tobacco $25,000;  hotel management company, Summit Hospitality Group, $5000; Clinton, NC-based poultry and turkey producer Prestage Farms, $5000; and the trade group NC Health Care Facilities Association, $4000.

Technology, hospitality, tobacco, health care, insurance, education — is there any industry that did not put some dollars toward the re-election of Justice Newby?