Archive for the ‘judicial discipline panel secrecy’ Category

Governor should veto bill changing review of judges

August 18, 2013



It is true that dissatisfied defendants and prosecutors often complain about the judges who presided over their cases. “Favors the district attorneys,” one will say. “A liberal who always gives a break to defendants,” another will say.

And indeed justice is sometimes hampered by judges who aren’t gifted with the knowledge of the law and the sound judgment we require of those who sit up high in the robes with the gavel in hand. When that judgment is particularly bad, appropriate disciplinary action must be taken, or the credibility of the entire judicial system is undermined.  Hence the importance of the state Judicial Standards Commission, a panel charged with publicly reviewing complaints against judges and a panel that has done a good job.

Why, then, would a last-minute bill pass the General Assembly that would allow complaints involving judges to be secret? How is it a good idea to take away the commission’s authority to publicly reprimand judges and instead put the state Supreme Court in charge of disciplining judges?  The measure had strong support in the state Senate, but cooler heads almost prevailed in the state House, where the measure passed by a narrow 53-48 vote.

If Gov. Pat McCrory is watching, he knows that the margin in the House is not veto-proof, and a veto in this case is sorely needed.

The measure is opposed by Chief Judge John Martin of the Court of Appeals (and the current head of the standards commission) and Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker. Martin wrote lawmakers saying the law “will create potential conflicts of interest within our judiciary and muddle the transparency and availability of public records related to judicial misconduct.”

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Governor should veto bill changing review of judges

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Editorial: Bill that cloaks judicial discipline process is wrong

August 14, 2013

Something smells bad in Raleigh regarding legislation the General Assembly passed in its closing hours that closes to public view the discipline process for state judges.

The bill concentrates power for disciplining these judges in the hands of the N.C. Supreme Court, taking that power away from the Judicial Standards Commission, a more diverse group that includes judges, lawyers and layman citizens.

Furthermore, the bill passed even though it had been soundly defeated in the state Senate a week before the legislature went home, only to be resurrected in the session’s closing hours and approved with the votes of many senators who had spoken forcefully against it only days before.

Gov. McCrory should take the advice of the state Bar Association and veto this bill. We’re sure, now that the bill has been widely reported on by the state’s news media, that the legislature will not dare try to override this stinker.

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Editorial: Bill that cloaks judicial discipline process is wrong

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New laws mean changes for judges, elections

N.C. lawyers oppose increased secrecy in disciplining judges

August 13, 2013

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