RALEIGH – As lawmakers on Jones Street reconvened for one of the many special legislative sessions to come, one of the issues they tackled was reforms to judicial elections. Along the way hints were dropped that 2018 could bring legislation dealing with merit selection of judges.
Commentary from Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court Mark Martin (R) was cited as supporting merit selection as an effective way to place qualified jurists on the bench while at the same time insulating them from the ebb and flow of retail politics. And Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued a statement Tuesday about all the options for judicial reform the Republican majority is considering.
“We agree North Carolinians deserve a system that places the best possible judges on the bench, and that’s why we are exploring all options including judicial redistricting and the merit selection process that Gov. Cooper once championed,” said Berger.
Cue Cooper and fellow Democrats scaremongering about Republican power plays.
“What we’re seeing now is an effort to take over the judiciary for political reasons instead of trying to find a way to get the best judges,” said Cooper in response to the merit selection discussion. “Election of judges isn’t perfect but it’s far better than this legislature controlling who the judges are going to be in every district at every level. I don’t think the people of North Carolina want to give up the right to vote for their own local judges and give that power to legislative political party bosses in Raleigh.”
Cooper previewed the left’s political narrative during a recent veto of another Republican sponsored bill dealing with the judiciary, during which he stated the legislation was “the first step toward a constitutional amendment that will rig the system so that the legislature picks everybody’s judges in every district instead of letting the people vote for the judges they want.”
The problem is Cooper’s own voting record makes him his own worst enemy. As a N.C. Senator he voted for a nearly identical policy in 1995, in which the governor would have nominated judges to be confirmed by the legislature. and thereby “rigging the system” according to Cooper’s current logic.
Of course, the then-state senator was all for it when Democrats controlled the levers of power. Now that the voters of the Old North State have elected and maintained Republican super-majorities, the Nash County native couldn’t put his flip-flops on fast enough.
Berger did not mince words when reminding the governor of his public voting record and how it exposes his current position as nakedly political.
“Unfortunately, the governor exposes his hypocrisy and partisanship by opposing a policy he once supported now that he knows any future system to select judges would require Republicans and Democrats to work together instead of being controlled solely by Democrats,” asserted Berger.
So, far from guarding against a rigged system, Cooper is really fighting to make sure Democrats don’t have to yield to the actual bosses in town – the voters. Merit selections would require overwhelming approval in the legislature, no matter its political makeup. That makeup would be determined by North Carolina voters every two years.
Alas, Cooper is likely to keep up the antics so he can continue fundraising with fear tactics in hopes of maintaining the tiniest of margins that moved him to Blount Street after 8 years of campaigning from the Attorney General’s office.