A leaked document from the North Carolina Supreme Court obtained by WRAL highlights a right-wing power grab that has been under discussion since just days after Republicans won a majority on the court last November.
According to the document, Republicans in the Supreme Court are working on two new policies that would seriously weaken the state’s appellate courts, a move that critics are calling a power grab, and one that supporters say would make courts “more efficient.”
One policy, according to notes from a North Carolina Bar Association meeting given to WRAL, would give the Supreme Court the ability to rule that certain opinions issued by the state Court of Appeals shouldn’t be used as precedent.
The other change would give the high court more power over which cases from the Court of Appeals are allowed to even reach the Supreme Court – one that has a 5-2 Republican majority.
As WRAL highlighted, “The Court of Appeals hears cases in three-judge panels, and state law has long said that if someone loses in a 2-1 ruling, they can cite the dissent in their favor to be guaranteed a hearing in front of the Supreme Court. The proposals would get rid of that rule.”
“It’s about concentrating power in the office of the chief justice, and it’s trying to silence some of the dissents that will be coming from judges who are Democrats,” said state Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat and former judge. “The whole politicization of the courts is just a disaster.”
The right-wing state Supreme Court giving themselves more power is a terrifying thought, but it’s already a reality when you consider the actions they have taken so far this year and not just the plans they’re making.
Recent orders by the newly Republican-controlled state Supreme Court highlight the influence of partisan politics seeping into the state’s courts.
The high court, which flipped to a Republican majority in November’s elections, announced that it would rehear a redistricting case and a voter ID case.
Despite criticism from legal experts and groups, the state Supreme Court, and just two months after the original ruling, the Republican majority high court will rehear the cases in mid-March for oral arguments.
The AP reported that the two Democratic justices, “lamented the orders and said they stood against more than 200 years of court history, in which rehearings have been exceedingly rare.”
The dissent to the latest orders filed by the two justices noted that the court had agreed to rehearings in only two of 214 requests filed since January 1993, The New York Times reported.
Last year, the state Supreme Court struck down a voter ID law as racially discriminatory and redistricting maps as unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.
The Republican-led state legislature lost both cases when they were previously before the state’s highest court which had a four-member Democratic majority on the seven-member Supreme Court.
According to the Associated Press, Common Cause, an advocacy group that sued over gerrymandered redistricting lines, “told state Supreme Court justices that previous rulings that blocked legislative and congressional district maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders should be left intact.”
“Their petition is nothing more than a cynical attack on judicial independence, our state’s Constitution, and North Carolinians’ long-held freedoms,” stated Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina.