Documents and Resources

Open Letter on NC Court Reform

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2018 

Contact: Ronald L. Newton, AAC-NCDP Communications Director
Telephone: (919) 425-1277
Newton_615@mns.com

RALEIGH, NC – The year 2017 marked the 50th Anniversary of the major over haul of the North Carolina Court System. Collectively our Courts must serve the needs of justice, but, they must also be the pinnacle of fairness. Recently, North Carolina GOP legislators attempted to gerrymander Judicial Districts. As President of the African American Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party (AAC-NCDP) it is my duty to bring awareness to this effort by expressing the long and arduous history surrounding the reformation of our court system.

In 1955 Governor Luther Hodges convened the Bell Commission and requested that the issue of court reform be studied. Jesse Spencer Bell, who was an Attorney, and state senator established a plan for the North Carolina Court System that was acceptable and approved by a majority vote of the NC Legislature. The Bell Commission Plan was accepted in 1967. The passage of Mr. Bell’s plan is thought to have been instrumental in the passage of the Constitutional Amendments that provide legal protection for all citizens where are Courts are concerned. 

In 2018, multiple efforts to adversely affect this hallmark achievement have been evident. Republicans have attempted to infuse politics into how the NC Court System should be structured and administrated. Lady Justice is supposed to be blind, but, when you reduce the number of Judges on the Court of Appeals, gerrymander judicial district lines, refuse to receive the recommended appointments to fill vacancies by a sitting Governor, and attempt to restructure the NC Supreme Court, they (the Republicans) have gone too far.

There is a right way to reform our court system if something is wrong. Let’s obtain the opinions of our judges, court staff, citizens legal scholars, and NC Bar Association members. The Administrative Office of the Courts should be free to impartially carry out its duties and obligations. If we stand by and do nothing to express concern about this issue, North Carolina will join only 8 other states that elect all their trial judges in partisan elections. What do you think will happen then? The 2018 Midterm is a major election. As a Caucus, let’s lead the fight together in ensuring that our courts remain nonpartisan and the picture of clear transparency.

Linda Wilkins-Daniels
President, AAC-NCDP

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The mission of the AAC-NCDP is to promote political participation and education within the African American Community, encourage African Americans to seek public office, represent issues and concerns of its membership to the Democratic Party Leadership and to work towards strengthening the Democratic Party.