Advocates opposed to recent changes that would alter the judicial branch in North Carolina will hold a town hall in Chapel Hill tonight at seven p.m.
The event comes two days after the North Carolina Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement (SBOE), and SBOE executive director Kimberly Strach over the Electoral Freedom Act, a bill passed in October that cancels primary elections for judges.
In a statement, the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party said the move amounts to depriving North Carolinians of the right to vote: “Legislative Republicans are rigging the system, not creating a better system of selecting judges. North Carolinians have a right to make an informed decision about who they want as their judicial nominee. This move unjustly eliminates that right and should be immediately struck down.”
It’s not the only bill giving advocates pause. They’re also sounding the alarm on three proposed pieces of legislation with potentially far-reaching consequences for the courts. There’s HB 717, a controversial judicial redistricting bill passed by the House, which, according to Fair Courts NC, would pack nearly half of all African-American judges into a district with another incumbent, forcing them to run against each other or step down; SB 698, which would slash all judges’ terms to two years, forcing them to be in a near-constant state of fundraising and campaigning; and a yet-to-be-introduced proposal floating around the General Assembly that would eliminate the state’s judicial elections altogether, allowing politicians to essentially pick their own judges.
Taken together, opponents say the spate of legislation crushes the independence of the judiciary, politicizes the courts, and is the next phase in a years-long attack led by the state’s Republican leaders on a judiciary that has kept them in check.
“Politicians are trying to gain partisan control over the courts and rig the system so they can enact their extreme agenda in spite of the will of the people. By changing the rules of the game, they’ll be able to continue to give tax breaks to millionaires, cut funding for public schools, and protect corporate polluters,” says Fair Courts NC, the group sponsoring tonight’s town hall. “This scheme by politicians to rig the judicial system in their own favor will only further erode people’s faith in the courts to provide justice fairly and impartially, free from the influence of big money.”
The event will be held tonight at seven p.m. at 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Chapel Hill. For more information, click here.