N.C. lawyers oppose increased secrecy in disciplining judges

The groups who say they were ambushed by the N.C. legislature this year have new members: some of the state’s most prominent judges and leaders of the legal community.

Judges and lawyers normally fare well in dealings with the General Assembly.  But many of them have publicly mobilized against a last-minute Republican bill that would change how North Carolina disciplines its jurists.

This week, and for the first time in its history, the North Carolina Bar Association asked a governor to veto a bill.

On Wednesday, more than two dozen of the group’s former presidents, including seven from Charlotte, followed up with a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory asking him to block the changes. It was sent to Bob Stevens, McCrory’s legal counsel and past president of the Mecklenburg Bar.

The bill’s supporters, which includes most Republicans in the General Assembly, say it streamlines certain procedures and puts more disciplinary authority where it belongs, with the Supreme Court.

That includes giving the state’s high court authority to punish its own members. Critics, however, say the bill shrouds in secrecy what is now a substantially public process, undermining trust. By consolidating disciplinary authority with the Supreme Court, they say, it increases the odds for conflicts of interest and sets North Carolina up for potential partisan embarrassments that have hit other states.

John Wester, a Charlotte attorney and past state bar association president, said the importance of the debate extends beyond courtrooms and law offices.

“We underestimate the authority that our system gives to our judges,” Wester said. “It’s a great blessing that we’ve had judges with impeccable integrity. But when there’s an exception, we have to have a reliable process that the public can believe in.”

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N.C. lawyers oppose increased secrecy in disciplining judges

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2 Responses to “N.C. lawyers oppose increased secrecy in disciplining judges”

  1. Thelma Says:

    This "public" no longer has confidence in not only the judiciary but the entire legal system.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Good for them for opposing the secrecy!

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