North Carolina court struggle heats up

That escalated quickly.

In light of the North Carolina legislature’s proposal to reduce the size of the state court of appeals from 15 to 12, Judge Douglas McCollough resigned from the court yesterday.  Judge McCullough was due to leave the court next month under the state’s mandatory retirement laws (he is nearing age 72), but chose to leave early so that Governor Roy Cooper could fill his position immediately.

And immediately he did.  Fifteen minutes after Judge McCollough tendered his resignation, the governor nominated John Arrowood to fill the open seat.

Judge McCollough stated that he resigned now — before the legislation could be passed — to increase the likelihood that the court would maintain its current 15 member composition.  “I didn’t want my legacy to be the elimination of the seat,” he said.  But his decision to leave early, which emphasized the institutional health of the court, was still shrouded in political intrigue.

McCollough is a Republican, as are the next two judges coming up for mandatory retirement.  Cooper’s nominee, Arrowood, is a Democrat and is openly gay.  Arrowood served briefly on the court of appeals a decade ago (through an interim appointment to fill a vacancy), but was voted off the court in 2008 and lost another election in 2014.  I have sided with Governor Cooper throughout these debates, but this appointment smacks of political pandering — especially in light of the the debates over LGBT rights in North Carolina in the last few years.  Arrowood is too easily seen as a pandering pick to assuage Cooper’s base — a perception that ultimately will hurt Arrowood, Cooper, and the court itself.

 

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