RALEIGH – In a North Carolina Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday Democrat members staged a theatrical walk-out when the committee chair, Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), decided to not play along with Roy Cooper’s ploy to politicize the judiciary.
The committee was meeting to consider changes to how judges are selected in the Old North State, whether it be by primary elections followed by general elections, merely general elections, or even the notion of merit selection of judges.
Set to testify in the hearing was Scott Gaylord, who previously represented the General Assembly in court. Also on the schedule was a ‘representative’ of Roy Cooper, recently retired Superior Court Judge Don Stevens.
The only problem being that Stevens, the top Superior Court judge in North Carolina until his forced retirement due to age, does not work for Roy Cooper.
Bishop, a reliable conservative and author of the infamous House Bill 2, opened the meeting by announcing he would not allow Stevens to testify because he was not employed by Cooper’s office.
Prodded by the Democrats on the committee – Sens. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake), Floyd McKissick (D-Durham), and Joel Ford (D-Mecklenburg) – to let Stevens speak despite the chairs contention, Bishop stood his ground and refused.
The Democrats then walked out. Later they cried foul, complained of a lack of transparency, and attacked Republican efforts to silence opposition. All in the name of defending an ‘Independent Judiciary.’
The truth is though, that Roy Cooper having Stevens speak on his behalf suggested that, either, Stevens (and all Democrat judges) work for Cooper, or that Cooper was using Stevens to advance his arguments with out having to actually send anyone from his office to comment on judicial reform efforts.
During his tenure on the bench Stevens ruled against the legislature in many Cooper lawsuits, and so now Cooper seems to think he works for him. If that’s the case, then it confirms Republicans’ concerns about partisanship infecting the court system.
Cooper has history of thinking partisanship should reign in the judicial branch as evidenced by comments that he made to The Insider that he expects to lose cases with all Republican judicial panels, and win cases where Democrat jurists have a majority. He thinks the ‘D’ beside their names means they should automatically side with him no matter the constitutional merit or legal precedent involved in the case.
This judicial activism is part of the problem, and the Republican conern has been warranted by recent court decisions in which Democrat judges ignore clear constitutional authorities to protect Cooper from a Republican legislature with super-majorities.
So Democrats want to lecture Republicans on the importance of an independent judiciary, while at the same time putting up judges to testify on their behalf as if they work for them? Please.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) had a stern response to Cooper’s and Democrats’ clever ploy:
“The Democrats’ political stunts today show they will do anything to preserve North Carolina’s existing unconstitutional judicial system for the benefit of their political party.
To date the Senate has held more than 14 hours of hearings and debate, incorporating ideas from across the political spectrum and and from many groups impacted by changes to our judicial system. This is a serious effort to address the constitutional problems with the current plan and the House proposal.
At this point it is fair to say that Gov. Cooper was dead serious when he cynically told The Insider he was counting on his Democrat allies on the bench to make politically partisan rulings to enable him to achieve his political goals.”
That’s exactly what this was – a stunt. Actually, it seems the only thing Cooper is ever really capable of is these kinds of political stunts. Stunts that provide him artificially generated rage from the Left that he then tries to train on Republicans across the state.
Fortunately for the citizens of North Carolina, Cooper’s stunts won’t be able to save him from the will of the people come 2020.