RALEIGH – Tuesday Gov. Roy Cooper showed his true partisan colors when he announced he was snubbing two senior veteran justices of the N.C. Supreme Court in favor of an identity politics ploy in naming Democratic Justice Cheri Beasley to the chief justice position. The move was a disappointment and a break from tradition, and leading Republican officials let their displeasure be known.
“It is disappointing that Governor Cooper has decided to not appoint the most-experienced Associate Justice to serve as the new Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. I can think of no person who is more qualified and ready than Paul Newby to serve as North Carolina’s Chief Justice. Those who claim that partisan political considerations should not be considered when judges are selected are now applauding a purely partisan decision on who should be the next Chief Justice. I give Paul Newby my full support on his bid to become North Carolina’s Chief Justice in the 2020 elections.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
“One can only believe the reason Cooper decided to ignore the longstanding, nonpartisan tradition of the court was purely politics. Cooper’s constant calls to keep our courts free from political interference rings hollow with this decision.” – North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes
“I wish Justice Beasley well in her new role. However, I am disappointed that Governor Cooper has ignored the decades-old precedent of appointing the most senior member of the court as chief justice. A reasonable conclusion is that he decided to pass over Justice Newby because of his party affiliation.” – Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger
“Sadly, today, Governor Cooper decided to place raw, partisan politics over a nonpartisan judiciary by rejecting the time-tested tradition of naming the senior associate justice as chief justice. The governor’s decision further erodes public trust and confidence in a fair judiciary, free from partisan manipulation. While many talk of removing partisan politics from the courts, the governor’s actions today in using party label to make his selection is a reminder that actions speak louder than words.” – Senior Associate Justice Paul Newby
The common thread in these comments outline an excellent point. Democrats, especially Cooper, have long complained about the advent of partisan judicial races and argued that politics has no place in our courts. They regurgitated talking points about an ‘independent judges’ and a ‘nonpartisan judiciary.’ What they really meant, of course, was that Republicans had no place in the judiciary, and the only ‘independent judiciary’ in their minds was one dominated by Democratic activist judges.
In selecting Beasley for Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court Cooper checked off all the identity politics boxes – a Democrat who is the first black woman to hold the post. The Left-leaning media ate it up. Beasley herself alluded to the importance of those identity politics in her speech at the Governor’s mansion, flanked by a smug Roy Cooper.
“I hope it’s a show of symbolism for where we are in North Carolina,” she said. “This is certainly not the North Carolina of 200 years ago. I’m excited about the fact that North Carolina has moved forward, that we do have a diverse court, and it’s so important that people feel good and have the confidence in the work that we do.”
It’s so important that people “feel good”? Pardon me for believing that giving the Left-leaning media the warm and fuzzies should not supersede the ultimate mission of the high court. It would “feel better” if upholding the judicial norms and the constitutions of North Carolina and the United States were at the forefront of these considerations, instead of politically correct chess moves from politicians thinking about their next election.
Cooper said he felt no obligation to pick a Republican as chief justice. That, and much more, is clear. Actually, Cooper has repeatedly demonstrated that he feels no obligation to quite a few conventions of honorable governance. He certainly didn’t feel any obligations to ethics when he arranged for a massive personal slush fund in exchange for approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline permits, did he?
Cooper’s decision regarding chief justice is disappointing, yes, but not surprising in the least. It is indicative of the cheap identity politics that North Carolina will be subjected to in heavier and heavier doses as we near the 2020 elections.