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The latest news story from NC Policy Watch Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey — “All white and overwhelmingly male: Latest departure leaves NC federal courts among lest diverse in the nation” — contains a lot of information that will leave caring and thinking people frustrated and even ticked off, but this passage stands out:

James Beaty, the lone African-American judge on the state’s federal district court, stepped down from his position on the state’s Middle District – which covers the areas from Durham to Winston-Salem – moving to senior status at the end of June.

The result?

North Carolina has one of the whitest and least diverse groups of federal district court judges in the country.

That’s a perception problem for the courts at the very least, particularly given that the ugliness of racial politics has resurfaced in North Carolina.

As Andrew Cohen points out in his article in The Atlantic last November, asking why there aren’t more black judges in the South:

“Indeed, at a time when minorities are being disenfranchised by Republican officials in Florida and Alabama and other Southern states, the continuing lack of black representation on our federal benches sends another strong message of a tolerance for unequal justice.”

And if that doesn’t get you fired up, check out this graphic: Read More

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As we sift through the aftermath of this week’s primary elections, folks should check out two new “must reads” from the state’s editorial pages about the bottom-of-the-barrel, big-money attack ads that infected the race for a state Supreme Court seat.

In this essay published in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer, Melissa Price Kromm of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections and Bert Brandenburg of the group Justice at Stake in Washington, D.C had this to say:

“After years of avoiding the explosion in judicial election spending nationwide, North Carolina is quickly earning an unwelcome reputation. In the 2011-2012 judicial election cycle, more than $3.5 million was spent for just one state Supreme Court seat; more than $2.8 million of that came from outside groups.

The soaring independent spending in North Carolina is in keeping with national trends since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that unleashed unlimited independent spending on elections

These trends pose a disturbing threat to our courts – that justice might be for sale. Read More

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Women’s and civil rights groups will gather this morning outside the federal court house in Raleigh to protest Senator Richard Burr’s 10-month-plus, one-man filibuster of federal court nominee Jennifer May-Parker. This is from the state NAACP:

JMP_Press Conference“Women’s groups associated with the Forward Together Moral Movement will hold a news conference this morning at 9:00 a.m. in front of the U.S. Federal Court House at 310 New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. Groups, including NC Women in the NAACP, Planned Parenthood of Central NC, North Carolina Women United, NC NOW, NC AdvaNCe and others, will call on Senator Richard Burr to do the right thing and allow Ms. Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination to move forward.

The United States District Court seat for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant since 2005, burdening the system and hindering the rights of citizens. The eight year vacancy has been called a “judicial emergency” by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Ms. May-Parker, who has yet to receive a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee due to Senator Burr’s refusal, has the potential to become the first African American and the first African American woman to serve as judge in the District.”

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Blue slipThere’s yet another reminder today of why more and more caring and thinking people have begun to agitate and advocate for a better, fairer and more diverse federal judiciary. As Nicole Flatow of Think Progress reports, the fallout from the Supreme Court’s most recent disastrous campaign finance decision in the McCutcheon case is already hitting the fan:

“'[T]oday’s reality is that the voices of “we the people” are too often drowned out by the few who have great resources,’ wrote U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty Thursday. But after many paragraphs spent lamenting the corruption inherent in limitless permissible contributions to political action committees, Crotty, a George W. Bush nominee, struck down parts of the New York law that limited them, conceding that he is bound to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, ‘no matter how misguided . . . [the Court] may think it to be.’ Read More

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Richard Burr 2This week’s LOL, through-the-looking-glass moment in conservative politics revolves around the antiquated Senate “blue slip” process whereby home state Senators like North Carolina’s own Richard Burr can unilaterally and without explanation block federal court nominees — even ones they’ve endorsed previously to the President.

As Think Progress contributor Ian Millhiser reports, proposals in the U.S. Senate to temper the rule (as was done previously by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch when he once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee) are meeting strong resistance from…Senator Orrin Hatch:

“Rolling back the Senate’s so-called ‘blue slip process’ would be ‘disastrous,’ according to an op-ed written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) on Friday. Which is somewhat of a surprising position for Hatch to take, since he largely abandoned this blue slip process in 2003. Read More