This week, two articles highlight the breathtaking power plays by Senator Berger and House Leader Tim Moore in NC.

The first, an editorial from WRAL, frames the history by quoting a Politico interview with Thom Tillis about his days as House Speaker.  “Tillis was direct and candid about his hardball tactics. The most important objective he said he had as North Carolina Speaker, and now as a senator: achieve policy goals regardless of other people’s opinions.

Tillis boasted of stripping away old legislative rules and procedures that demanded open debate and replacing them with new ones, as the Politico article summed up to “churn out big wins guided by the Koch brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council.

Tillis called out those legislators who want democratic debate and public participation as a bunch of whiners:

“When people are fundamentally opposed to the policy, they start screaming process. It’s hard to debate the result. They may not like the process, but if they don’t like the process, change the rules. Otherwise you should use whatever rules are available to produce the outcome,” he said.

Given this background, it is hardly surprising that Senator Berger is following in the same mould.

“Only now, AFTER imposing a series of radical changes in how North Carolina elects judges and administers justice, is Berger calling on the legislature to examine the issue.

“I hope our state can have a thoughtful dialogue on how to modernize, reform, and strengthen it in the coming months,” said Berger in the news release that announced the committee. It’s a bit late for that. Don’t be fooled, what Berger really wants is some political theater to provide cover for what’s being imposed.

Their goal isn’t a government that provides for the needs of citizens, it is about imposing ideological rigidity and crushing those who might hold differing points of view.

In real democracies, like those envisioned by the founders of this nation and state, discussions and debates come BEFORE laws are passed. If Berger and the other leaders of the General Assembly are sincere in wanting to modernize the state’s judicial system and how judges are selected, they should be proactive and take an unbiased and deliberative approach.”

Read here for the complete article.

In another article published this week, Professor Gene Nichols also called out Senator Berger for his methods in trying to control judges. In an excoriating News and Observer op-ed piece, he writes

“Senate leader Phil Berger and his crew have determined, apparently, that gerrymandering the judges’ districts, eliminating their primaries, restricting their powers of judicial review, ending public funding for their campaigns, manipulating the size of the court of appeals, stacking individual state Supreme Court elections and becoming the first state in a century to demand the partisan election of judges isn’t enough to deliver the precise courts the Republicans require. Clearing the whole offending slate and forcing them to run constant, expensive, relentless and hyper-partisan campaigns seems now to be the trick.” Nichols leaves the reader in little doubt that the legislative branch seeks to control the judicial branch by whatever means necessary.

Read more here:


Further Developments on the Courts; what they are doing and what is being done to them.

As many of you will be aware, a Special Master has been appointed to look at several of the redrawn legislative districts including some in Wake County. Even after being drawn again when the courts ruled them racially gerrymandered, the map-drawers are still deemed to have done a poor job. We hope that Nathaniel Persily of Stanford law school is a better cartographer than those selected by the Republican legislature!

Should we elect them or appoint them?
NC Policy Watch’s Steve Ford provides a deeper analysis of the assault on the judiciary. He starts with this statement from the NC state constitution:
“The legislative, executive, and supreme judicial powers of the State government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other.”

It’s not clear whether the multiple bills and laws aimed at curbing the state courts will end with elections being eliminated and replaced with appointment of judges by the legislature but in the short term making judges run for office every two years will certainly limit their ability to perform their legal responsibilities because of the need to raised money and campaign for re-election.

“As to making judges answer to the public every two years, the model is absurd. Yes, legislators – who do serve two-year terms – are supposed to be tethered to public opinion and responsive to constituents’ concerns (although gerrymandering effectively relieves many of them of that obligation). Judges, by contrast, are supposed to run on their character, knowledge and experience – then carry out their duty to uphold the law, not looks for ways to advance party agendas. ”
Read the article here:

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