THIS IS AN UPDATE ON THE STORY BELOW–THE BILL WAS NOT INTRODUCED TODAY. However, we are not out of the woods yet. The bill can be introduced anytime in the near future. We just have to be informed voters and vote against the referendum if it shows up on the ballot in November! (Updated Wednesday, January 10, 2018)
Tomorrow in the North Carolina legislature a bill will be introduced to allow for the appointment of judges rather than letting the voters elect the judges. If the measure passes the legislature, it will appear on the ballot in November to be approved by the voters. This is a really bad idea.
These are the rules on who may serve as a judge in North Carolina:
Only persons authorized to practice law in North Carolina are eligible for election or appointment as a judge (district, superior or appellate). N.C. Const. Art. IV, Sec. 22. Because that wasn’t always the rule, there is an exception for persons elected to or serving in such capacities on or before January 1, 1981.
The result of this law is that it severely limits the number of people who may serve as judges. South Carolina, for instance, requires that judges have a college education, but there is not requirement that they have a law degree or are lawyers. So North Carolina has already limited the number of people who become judges. What will be the impact of having judges appointed instead of elected? First of all, if the judges are not accountable to the voters, who will they be accountable to? Second of all, if a lawyer wants to become a judge, but isn’t part of the in crowd at the legislature, does he have a way of becoming a judge? If the legislature is appointing the judges, isn’t that one branch of government having authority over another supposedly equal branch? How much time do the legislators have to evaluate the judicial choices of their leadership? This suggested law seems to be the perfect way to put control of North Carolina’s judiciary into the hands of a very small group of people. That is a very bad idea.
Hopefully this bill will not get past the legislature, but if it does, beware of it in November.