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NC Groups Call to Balance Scales of Justice in NC

The future of North Carolina's judicial system is at stake as the State Assembly considers multiple changes to the way judges are elected and the lengths of their term. (Chris Potter/flickr)
The future of North Carolina's judicial system is at stake as the State Assembly considers multiple changes to the way judges are elected and the lengths of their term. (Chris Potter/flickr)
January 10, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. – Wednesday dozens of people are expected to convene at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh to speak out for the judicial system.

Lawmakers were expected to take up several issues related to the selection of judges and lengths of their terms, but have since delayed that discussion for later this month.

Melissa Price Kromm, director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, says her organization and other supporting groups won't be deterred.

"We're not going anywhere,” she stresses. “We're going to stand here and we're going to fight for our courts.

“North Carolina must draw a line in the sand, and say, 'No, we are here to protect fair and impartial courts, we are here to protect institutions of democracy, and we're not going away.'"

The General Assembly recently passed a bill, vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, that would have canceled primary elections for judges, and the House passed a bill that would modify legislative maps as they relate to judicial districts, which opponents say will reduce minority judges.

Other proposed ideas include limiting judges' terms to two years and eliminating judicial elections completely.

Supporters of the changes say the current system is confusing for voters.

Progress NC and the North Carolina Council of Churches also are participating Wednesday in the Fair Courts Day of Action.

Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches, likens the system of government to a three-legged stool you wouldn't want to sit on.

"What we have is a broken General Assembly leg, a weak governor leg, because the General Assembly has exerted so much control over the governor, and now this third leg that has been up to now the strongest leg is in danger," she states.

A new poll released by Public Policy Polling found that 75 percent of voters oppose the proposal to eliminate judicial elections and 59 percent oppose last year's law to cancel judicial primaries.

Kromm says attempts to change the way judges are selected isn't localized to the Tar Heel State.

"This is an incredibly important battle because if the legislature is allowed to do court meddling right now, this will grow like a disease across our country, where other legislators will think, 'Hey, North Carolina can pick their judges. I can pick my judges, too,'" she stresses.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC