Last month, the North Carolina legislature voted to move all state judicial elections back to partisan contests, overriding a veto by Governor Roy Cooper in the process. Now a new legislative battle is looming: the reduction in the size of the state’s court of appeals.
North Carolina currently has a 15-member court of appeals, but House Bill 239 would reduce its size to twelve members. The immediate impact would be that three Republican judges who are nearing mandatory retirement age could not be replaced by Governor Cooper, a Democrat. The Governor has vetoed the bill, noting correctly that “Having three fewer judges will increase the court’s workload and delay timely appeals.” The legislature, however, is expected to override the veto.
These issues keep arising in a political context, but the sensible structuring of the courts to allow them to conduct their business should not be a partisan issue. The North Carolina legislature is playing games with the administration of justice, pure and simple.