Common Cause Warns of Possible Court-Packing Scheme by McCrory

People’s independent watchdog group releases video slamming effort of lame-duck governor

By Michael M. Barrick

RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina Republican Party under lame-duck Governor Pat McCrory is apparently not done with its shenanigans before Democrat Roy Cooper becomes the state’s 75th governor. At least that is what one prominent people’s independent watchdog group based here says in a hard-hitting video just released.

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Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause North Carolina

In the video, Common Cause North Carolina asserts that the special session that Governor McCrory has called for Dec. 13 is a back-door attempt to pack the state Supreme Court, even though the session is supposed to be about providing relief to victims of Hurricane Matthew and wildfires in Appalachian counties of Western North Carolina. However, the group asserts in the video that since Democrat Mike Morgan’s election provided the Democrats with the 4-3 majority on the court, the Republicans would also use the session to add two seats to the state Supreme Court, essentially “packing” it so that Republicans would regain a majority of 5-4 with McCrory getting to make the two appointments before he leaves office.

On their website, Common Cause stated, “On Tuesday the NC legislature is returning for what is supposed to be a special session focused on providing relief to victims of Hurricane Matthew. But lawmakers might use the session to radically alter our state’s highest court.

“After the Republican-endorsed candidate for the NC Supreme Court lost his election in November, reports have swirled around Raleigh that the GOP-controlled legislature might use the special session to add seats to the court – effectively overturning the impact of the election’s result and installing a Republican-backed majority of justices.”

It continued, “It would be outrageous if the legislature uses what is supposed to be a special session intended to help victims of natural disasters to instead cynically play partisan games with our state’s highest court.

“Such a move would threaten the independence of the judiciary, undermine the integrity of the legislature and it would be an attack on the right of North Carolina voters to directly elect our state’s Supreme Court justices.”

The assertion is based on language in the governor’s resolution that allows for the General Assembly to address “any other matters” it would wish to in the upcoming special session. That language and the refusal of state Republican leaders to discount the possibility of the court-packing scheme, prompted Common Cause North Carolina to call the attempt “disgraceful.” It also called upon the state’s citizens to call their legislators to say “enough of the rigged games.” Indeed, Common Cause released this petition to oppose adding seats to the N.C. Supreme Court.

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Morgan, a Democrat, beat long-time Associate Justice Bob Edmunds to turn control of the court back to the Democrats. If the GOP leadership should decide to push through a bill adding two justices, the move would change the balance of the court from a 4-3 majority for Democrats to a 5-4 majority for Republicans. That, says Common Cause, undermines the will of the people.

Calling for action, Common Cause asked, “Let state leaders know you do not support such a brazen attempt to undermine the independence of the N.C. Supreme Court. Tell them you oppose any court-packing scheme. Call House Speaker Tim Moore at 919-733-3451 and tell lawmakers not to play partisan games.”

Art Sherwood, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Senate District 45, said, “I have heard the rumors about adding two seats to the Supreme Court. If they move in this direction, it would be a gross abuse of the legislative authority, and a continuation of the Republican legislative attack on the courts.” He continued, “The people of Western North Carolina deserve to be spared Raleigh games as they try to put their lives back together.”

Sherwood, too, encouraged folks to take action. “I have gotten requests to sign petitions against these actions and have signed such, and would encourage others to do the same. Perhaps joining with groups like Moral Monday and encouraging them to address these issues would be a way to help.”

© The Lenoir Voice, 2016

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