North Carolina made the national news again Thursday, but not because of our recovering economy, our beautiful and irreplaceable vistas or the warmth of our people. Instead, we’ve been tagged for our state legislature’s overreaching push to change the makeup of our courts to favor Republican judges.
“Judges in state courts as of this year must identify their party affiliation on ballots, making North Carolina the first state in nearly a century to adopt partisan court elections,” New York Times reporter Trip Gabriel reported in a front-page story Thursday.
“The General Assembly in Raleigh reduced the size of the state Court of Appeals, depriving Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of naming replacements for retiring Republicans.
“And this month, lawmakers drew new boundaries for judicial districts statewide, which critics say are meant to increase the number of Republican judges on District and Superior courts and would force many African-Americans on the bench into runoffs against other incumbents.”
The legislature has overridden Cooper’s vetoes on these matters.
Politics has always been part of judicial races. Even though most of these races have long been nonpartisan, it’s been clear what parties candidates belong to.
But the GOP-dominated legislature has injected politics into these races like never before. “I feel like we’re taking off the black robes and we’re putting on red and blue robes, and does that really serve the interests of justice?” Rep. Marcia Morey, a Democrat who was previously a District Court judge, told the Times.
Such political fights are old stories with which we North Carolinians on all sides are all too familiar with. Unfortunately, the battles have ramped up to the extent that they’re regularly making the national news.
National exposure for this kind of extreme action is not good for business just when we’re turning things around and have so much going for us. Major industries these days tend to gravitate toward states where the playing field is fair, a hard lesson we thought our leaders learned through “the bathroom bill” that they rightly repealed in March.
If for nothing else but the sake of economic development, our legislative leaders should end the power grabs.