Status of Judicial Map Redrawing and Other Judicial Issues

(2/06/18 UPDATE): The federal district judge has determined that appellate court judicial candidates should have primaries, but allowed the primary elimination to go forward for district judges, as the legislature is studying and possibly revising district judge lines. The judicial redistricting is now in the purview of the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting, as the House and Senate could not agree on an approach to judicial redistricting. As of this writing, there are no meetings scheduled for the Joint Select Committee. Buncombe County State Senators Terry van Duyn and Chuck Edwards are both on the committee. Buncombe County could be substantially affected by possible changes to the judicial districts. 

The State GOP has, in response to the election of a Democrat to the Supreme Court in 2016, made all judicial elections partisan, where they were all formerly non-partisan, allegedly to provide voters with “more information” on the candidates. In response to the prospect of Roy Cooper having the opportunity to appoint several judges to the NC Court of Appeals, the GOP has reduced the size of the Court of Appeals from 15 to 12, effectively eliminating Cooper’s ability to appoint any judges there.

The GOP has recently eliminated primaries for judicial elections, so that the general ballot can be long and confusing, making it possible for a candidate receiving a percentage of votes well below 50% to win election. Cooper vetoed the legislation but his veto was overridden. The issue is now in US District Court, where Judge Catherine Eagles is weighing whether to issue an injunction to block the law while a lawsuit awaits trial. A decision is expected soon.

The GOP has also passed an election board overhaul that is now before the State Supreme Court.

There are two bills in the Senate Rules and Operations of the Senate Committee. The committee is chaired by Sen.  Bill Rabon, a Republican from Southport, NC. He is in his 4th term. One bill is his bill, SB 698 which will make judicial terms two years, requiring judges to run for election every two years. HB 717, passed by the House last year, is the gerrymander of judicial district lines, which will pit Democrats against Democrats, and change district lines to allow rural areas to have more, presumably, more judges than the city areas of counties.

A Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting has held hearings on what needs to be done to change (or not) judicial districts, as well as other judicial issues.