One of the few bright spots of these unbelievably awful past few days is that, in the race for the N.C. Supreme Court, Mike Morgan soundly defeated conservative Bob Edmunds. This gives Democrats four out of seven seats on the state Supreme Court; if Roy Cooper’s lead in the governor’s race holds, these two positions will be crucial for Democrats to stem the flow of right-wing policies the legislature has enacted over the past six years.
But, according to a Democratic legislative staffer, the Republicans are considering circumventing that by packing the Supreme Court with an extra two justices, both appointed by Pat McCrory before he leaves office. Those new justices would serve until 2018.
“There was some talk in the last session about adding judges, but they did the retention election thing and they got rebuffed on that,” the staffer says. The retention thing, you’ll recall, was another effort to circumvent the will of the voters. Justice Bob Edmunds was to be granted a retention vote instead of a real election; had voters rejected him, McCrory would have picked his successor. This move was deemed unconstitutional by a state court, and the N.C. Supreme Court, with Edmunds abstaining, deadlocked, so the lower court’s ruling stood. Edmunds had to face Morgan earlier this month, and he lost.
“If they do this, they clearly don’t like the result the voters gave them,” the staffer continues. “It’s just ridiculous that they would even contemplating doing this. It shows they are absolutely power-hungry. It’s a pattern to how they’re operating.”
“The legislature has the authority to expand the Supreme Court and could do that if they want to,” longtime former Democratic legislative staffer Gerry Cohen tells the INDY. “They could pass a bill expanding it, the governor would sign it, and then he’d have two appointments until the 2018 election.”
Representative Duane Hall, D-Wake, says that he “hopes they wouldn’t consider doing this.”
“I would be shocked they would have the audacity to try something like this after the people have spoken on the Supreme Court race,” Hall says. “It’s just another example of them trying to gain power, not by the right way, but by through changing the system in the same way they have gerrymandered our districts.”
A call and an email to Speaker Tim Moore’s office yesterday weren’t returned.