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Judicial News, Part III: North Carolina Justice Sues

Wisconsin is not the only state where a left-leaning judge is being subjected to shenanigans from right-leaning folks. In 2022, conservatives seized control of the North Carolina state Supreme Court, leaving it with five Republicans and two Democrats (both of them Black). There are some on the right who might prefer there to be only one Black Democrat (or even none). To that end, Associate Justice Anita Earls is currently being investigated (or harassed, to use her term) by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission.

What is Earls' "misconduct"? Well, she gave an interview with a site called Law360, in which she said the North Carolina judiciary is not diverse enough, and gave some thoughts as to what could be done about the problem. You can read the interview here, if you wish, but to do so you have to sign up for the free 7-day trial (unless you happen to already be a subscriber to Law360). We signed up for the trial, and read the interview, and it's garden-variety stuff. It's not like she channeled her inner radical and said the solution to the state's diversity problem is to kill whitey.

Nonetheless, Earls is being investigated. Of course, being a judge, she's also a lawyer. And if there's one thing lawyers know how to do, it's file lawsuits. And so, Earls has done exactly that, arguing that her remarks were covered by the First Amendment, and asking a federal court to quash the investigation.

Earls, presumably not coincidentally, is up for reelection in a couple of years. If her opponents can make her radioactive, that would surely complicate things. Meanwhile, the other Black person/other Democrat on the state Supreme Court, Michael R. Morgan, will see his term end next year. He could theoretically run for reelection, but he will reach the state's mandatory retirement age in 2027, so it might not be worth it.

Add it up, and the Tar Heel State could easily end up with an all-Republican (and possibly all-white) state Supreme Court by 2026, or possibly sooner. On the other hand, despite the fact that the state is pretty evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, the former has been unusually aggressive and effective at shutting the latter out of most parts of state government (except the governor's mansion). The kind of overreach that the Earls situation seems to represent could backfire on the NC GOP, not unlike what appears to be happening in Wisconsin right now. (Z)

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