Gavel Grab

NC Legislators Vote to Change Judicial Selection, Repeal Public Financing

North Carolina’s legislature keeps passing legislation to change the way judges are selected.

After legislators passed a budget bill last week that ends funding for public financing of appellate judicial elections, a pioneering reform to protect courts from special interest influence, the House gave final approval  to a major voting changes bill. It formally repeals the public financing law, according to a WRAL news report.

At Huffington Post, Adam Smith of Public Campaign wrote, “The repeal of a popular public financing program defies common sense, but it also defies the people who have actually used it. In June, 14 of the 15 members of the Court of Appeals urged the legislature to maintain the system.”

In addition, the Republican-controlled legislature voted separately to  give the governor more authority and let him appoint whomever he chooses for District Court judgeships, eliminating a requirement that such vacancies must be filled from lists of candidates chosen by the local bar.

“A terrible bill,” protested Rep. Rick Glazer, a Democrat who teaches at Campbell University law school, according to the Charlotte Observer. “It politicizes the process.” A governor may be influenced by political donations of a lawyer in choosing judges, he cautioned.

A Republican supporter, Sen. Tim Moore, said, “I’ve always felt that the bar, which is not elected, should not be able to tie the hands of the governor, who is elected.”

In the (Raleigh) News & Observer, an article about the many changes passed by this year’s legislature was headlined, “From the start, a ‘breathtaking’ GOP agenda in North Carolina.”

Justice at Stake was among groups lending support to preserving the popular program of public financing for judicial elections. Public Campaign is a JAS partner organization. The Huffington Post article mentioned a report about the public financing program’s success written by Democracy North Carolina, another JAS partner.

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