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In case you missed it over the weekend, the Charlotte Observer featured an excellent (if sobering) editorial about how the end of public financing and the massive of influx of dark money is transforming the North Carolina Supreme Court into an institution that’s literally for sale to the highest bidder.

“North Carolinians got their first glimpse of big-money Supreme Court races in 2012. Outside groups funneled about $2.3 million into the state to help incumbent Paul Newby, the conservative in the nonpartisan race. That money swamped the $300,000 or so in outside money aimed at helping opponent Sam Ervin IV.

That was the most outside money of any race in the state other than governor. Newby, buoyed by corny banjo-playing TV actors, won 52 percent to 48 percent. That let conservatives maintain a 4-3 majority on the bench.

Special interests could have even more influence this year thanks to at least three changes in the law: Read More

A new press release from the North Carolina NAACP:

NC NAACP Releases Letter Calling on Sen. Richard Burr to Stop Blocking a Vote on Ms. Jennifer May-Parker’s Candidacy to Fill an Open Seat on the U.S. District Court for Eastern North Carolina

RALEIGH – The North Carolina NAACP released a letter today urging Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) to stop blocking the congressional confirmation vote of Ms. Jennifer May-Parker for the U.S. district court judgeship in Eastern North Carolina.

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber, II and the state conference also call upon the NC NAACP’s partner organizations and other people of conscience to contact Sen. Burr and let him know that they oppose his continued efforts to obstruct the appointment of a well-qualified African-American attorney to the court seat.

“The North Carolina NAACP, the people of North Carolina, say today that we will never stand by as justice is delayed,” Dr. Barber said on Jan. 25 when he announced the initiative. “Because justice delayed is justice denied.” Read More

Voter IDIf you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey’s lead story over on the main Policy Watch site – “Lawmakers: What we talked about when we talked about Voter ID.” As McCloskey reports, GOP lawmakers may be forced, sooner or later, to disclose what they were really up to when they passed the controversial “Monster” voting law in 2013:

“What were state GOP lawmakers’ intentions when they enacted House Bill 589, one of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation?

That’s the question the groups challenging the law want answered by the handful of legislators they served with subpoenas in December, asking those lawmakers to produce emails, letters, reports and other records used when pushing for voting law changes last session.

The lawmakers responded last week with an opening salvo in what might become an extended battle, claiming to be completely insulated from any obligation to produce those communications.

But if the court in Greensboro follows decisions from others across the country resolving voting cases, those lawmakers may have to start digging through their files and come up with some answers. Read More

Burr2It’s becoming increasingly clear that at some point, Senator Richard Burr is going to have to explain his one-man, silent filibuster of the nomination of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve on the federal District Court for North Carolina’s Eastern District.

As this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reports, the Congressional Black Caucus is now weighing in full force on the issue:

“U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield says the Congressional Black Caucus is discussing how to break the logjam over the nomination of Jennifer May-Parker to the fill the federal district court judicial vacancy in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Read More

Burr2Constitutional law professor Herman Schwartz has an excellent essay at Reuters.com about the battles over presidential appointments to the federal courts, the right’s decades-long and highly successful effort to capture this issue and the slowly-stirring effort by progressives to (finally, thank the lord!) respond.

As Schwartz notes, one positive development that may soon be on the agenda is the demise of that absurd and archaic U.S. Senate institution known as the “blue slip” — the system of “courtesy” whereby any single senator of either party may block a nominee from his or her own state without explanation.

As followers of N.C. Policy Watch are well aware, Senator Richard Burr has been one of the most egregious abusers of this silly rule for several months now with his outrageous and unexplained blockage of an African-American federal prosecutor named Jennifer May-Parker whom President Obama nominated to fill an eight-year-old vacancy on the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina last June.  Thus far, because of Burr’s silent refusal to give his blessing, May-Parker has not even received a hearing — a fact rendered all the more outrageous by the fact (noted in this space last week) that Burr endorsed her for the job in 2009!

Let’s hope senators act soon to repeal this absurd rule — something Republicans did when they were in charge of the Senate Judiciary during the Bush administration.  And let’s hope that this time, it’s a once-and-for-all decision.