Senate Democrats will have a chance Wednesday to sound off on judicial selection at a committee meeting and they plan to make the most of their time.
After an exchange of letters between lawmakers serving on the Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting, the Republican co-chairs reserved two hours of the scheduled four-hour meeting for Democratic members to make presentations and proposals.
The four Democratic senators serving on the committee wrote a letter to the co-chairs, Republican Senators Dan Bishop, Warren Daniel and Bill Rabon, asking for seven specific speakers to present at the next meeting.
Bishop, Daniel and Rabon responded with a letter setting out conditions for Democrats to meet before agreeing to their speakers. When the Democrats didn’t respond, they sent another letter Friday letting them know they were disappointed but would let them proceed anyway.
“Unfortunately, your lack of a response is clear evidence that, rather than engage seriously and constructively on this matter, elected Democrats’ strategy is to stall, delay and throw up unfounded objections to achieving a consensus resolution,” they wrote. “It is probably fair to expect, given that every change made to the current system since the last overhaul nearly 60 years ago has been made by Democratic legislative majorities for the benefit of your party, that an updated plan that is simply fair might be perceived as more favorable to Republicans than the existing plan. Given the constitutional issues with the current judicial districts, that is no reason for you to refuse to participate in the process.”
Throughout the letter and in their previous letter, the chairmen refer to the current judicial districts as unconstitutional. However, there have not been any legal challenges or court decisions deeming the current judicial districts unconstitutional.
Bishop, Daniel and Rabon appear to be referring to testimony raising constitutional issues from Michael Crowell, a former UNC School of Government professor, but they did not return an email seeking further explanation.
Leslie Rudd, communications director for Sen. Dan Blue’s office, said in an email that committee members have been questioning Republicans’ determination that current judicial districts are unconstitutional.
“We haven’t seen or heard anything from the courts that challenge the legality of the current districts,” she wrote.
Rudd also said Democratic committee members did not think that Republicans’ most recent letter warranted an immediate response.
“However, they will try to make the most of the time allotted to them at tomorrow’s meeting,” she wrote. “We are still working on presenters, as this has been a rushed process.”
Gov. Roy Cooper’s Office did not respond to an email asking if he or a representative would be at the meeting tomorrow.
The meeting is tomorrow at 1 p.m. in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. You can listen to the audio stream here and see a copy of the agenda here. You can read Republicans’ latest letter below: