What is the NCGOP trying to do to our judicial system?
The unconstitutionally elected supermajority in the NC Legislature is looking for an opportunity to re-structure the court system to enable partisan influence. They understand that the courts are the last line of defense against their schemes to strip power from the Executive office and gerrymander their way to unbalanced representation in order to pass laws that benefit special interests and not the citizens of NC. Rep. Joe John has documented a list of recent bills passed which threaten an independent judiciary.
Since judges are bound to follow the laws enacted by our legislature, and not able to speak out on political issues, they need US to speak out on their behalf against the politicization of the NC judicial system.
So far the NCGOP controlled legislature has:
- Changed the judicial campaign finance law to remove public funding and open up campaign contributions to $5100
- Added party designation to the ballot next to judges’ names
- Reduced the number of appeals court judges
- Stripped the Governor’s ability to appoint vacancies so they could appoint them instead
- Slashed funding for Legal Aid access
- Passed HB717 to gerrymander the judicial districts (awaiting Senate vote in January 2018)
- Overrode Gov. Cooper’s veto and cancelled all judicial primary elections
- Filed a Constitutional Amendment, S698, to reduce the term of ALL judges to 2 years, and cut short the terms of duly elected judges so every single one of the 400+ seats would be up for re-election in Nov. 2018. It is highly likely that one of the reasons for this insane proposition was to deny Justice Mike Morgan the remainder of his newly won term.“Not only does Morgan’s presence on the bench swing the court to a 4-3 Democratic majority, it brings more racial diversity to the seven-member court, something that Morgan, an African-American man, and the chief justice noted.”
It is widely anticipated that the NCGOP will move to eliminate all judicial elections in favor of legislative appointments only. While “merit based” appointments do have some positive attributes, it must be done with an equitable process involving the legislature’s, Governor’s and citizens’ input.
Once you know the background, here are eight things you can do to defend our judicial system:
- Sign and share this PLEDGE for Fair Courts in North Carolina
- Share this list of committee members: NC House and Senate Select Committees on Judicial Reform and Redistricting Contacts 2017 – Sheet1-1 and blast them with calls, emails, letters and publicity demanding that they stop politicizing the court system for the sake of democracy in NC.
- The next Senate committee meeting will be on Wednesday, November 8, 2017, at 1pm, at the NCGA Legislative Office Building, 300 N. Salisbury Street, Raleigh, NC, Room 643. Attend if you can and show them we are watching!
- Ask your Senator and Representative to sign the Fair Courts Pledge above and make a public statement on their position regarding a fair and independent judiciary. Look up your elected officials here.
- Spread the word to as much of the public as you can through the media, Op-Ed’s, Letters to the Editors, Social Media, small group gatherings and more. PoliticaNC is available to facilitate a discussion with your group.
- Ask candidates in upcoming elections where they stand on the matter of an independent judiciary and outside influence. If they are a proponent of merit appointments, ask what process they would support.
- Reach far and wide through the business community in NC. The bigger the company the better, but also to groups of small business owners. Enlist their help in approaching the NCGA with the reasoning that if they don’t feel comfortable defending their property rights in a fair and independent court then they will not feel comfortable doing business here in NC since it jeopardizes their property. This is key, as we saw with HB2. Special interests can not be allowed to influence the courts.
- Volunteer for a canvass in your precinct to talk about these issues with your neighbors (ask your precinct chair to contact their district coordinator or StrongerNC for help getting started) Spread the word! Lots of voter education will be important to let people know that voting in the upcoming elections is critical, especially if there will be a Constitutional Amendment on the primary ballot in May 2018.
- Donate to Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Common Cause, DemocracyNC, NAACP and/or the NC Democratic Party. All of these groups are actively working to protect the constitutionally guaranteed separation of power for North Carolina Judges, and #FairElections.
- Recent Legislative Threats to NC Judicial Independence A detailed list of 15 bills from Rep Joe John
- Public Education Handouts from the National Assoc. Of Women Judges:
- Courts Are Not For Sale – Campaign Cash Undermines Confidence
- Politics and Special Interests
- Defending Justice – Protecting Citizens
- The Rule of Law Provides Fairness and Certainty Businesses Rely On
- How to Judge a Judicial Candidate
- Palm Card Handout
- Judicial BINGO Game
- Also from the NAWJ: “This handbook is designed to assist volunteer educators in communicating with the public and press about the importance of protecting our courts from special interest pressures and the critical role informed voters play in this process”: The Informed Voters Project – A Messaging Guide
- “…North Carolina is leading the country in what has become a nationwide attempt to dismantle the last line of defense against state lawmakers’ often unconstitutional and unconscionable laws.” NC Policy Watch 5/17/17
- The Brennan Center for Justice – Fair Courts
- NC Voters for Clean Elections