In case you missed it the other day, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby (he of the controversial banjo ad from a few years back) appeared at a conservative Christian political rally recently that was quite arguably an inappropriate venue for sitting judge to appear, much less speak.
This morning’s lead editorial in the Fayettteville Observer rightfully criticizes Newby’s actions. This is from the editorial:
“We hear a lot about judicial activism these days, but we don’t often see it. In most cases, judges on the appellate level hear arguments, interpret the law and issue a ruling. They do their job, deciding how the Constitution and law apply to situations our Founders couldn’t possibly foresee….
But last week, we saw a rare deviation from that norm, a surprising revelation by a North Carolina Supreme Court judge who attended a Fayetteville rally supporting controversial House Bill 2, nicknamed the ‘bathroom bill.’
Justice Paul Newby was a guest speaker at the rally – ‘Heart & Soul: A Night of Prayer and Worship.’ What he had to say may haunt him in future cases before his court. While the 61-year-old justice, who is in his second term, didn’t specifically endorse HB2, he alluded to it, recounting meetings with pastors from California and Maine who said they are praying for North Carolina to uphold the law. He added: ‘Let me tell you as a judge, our religious liberties are hanging by a thread.’
The state Code of Judicial Conduct says judges ‘should abstain from public comment about the merits of a pending proceeding in any state or federal court dealing with a case or controversy arising in North Carolina.’ HB2 is subject of several cases and Newby’s comments came as a three-judge panel of the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was about to release a split decision upholding Rowan County commissioners’ right to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.
Judge Newby just tipped his hand forevermore. There may be some recusal requests and other problems in his future.”
This is not the first time, of course, that Newby has stepped over the line and espoused conservative religious views in a public, political setting. One hopes this editorial will cause him to stop and rethink these kinds of actions, but sadly, that seems unlikely.