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Senators Walk Back Proposal To Cut Chief Justice’s Staff

North Carolina legislative building
Wikimedia Commons
File photo of the North Carolina Legislative building.

State senators reversed course on their plan to eliminate half the staff of North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley on Friday. Lawmakers voted 46-0 to amend their own budget and restore funding to her six-member staff."We were under the impression that the positions we were eliminating were vacant and had been for some time," said Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). "After your reporting, and after hearing from Senate Democrats about the issue, staff met with the chief justice's staff."

The Senate's proposed spending plan emerged earlier this week, and among the provisions were cuts to half of Beasley's staff. Gov. Roy Cooper appointed the judge to chief justice from associate justice earlier this year. Beasley is a Democrat, and the first African-American chief justice in the history of the court.

Photo: Justice Cheri Beasley
Credit Justice Cheri Beasley Committee
North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley

Of the three positions now no longer on the chopping block, two were filled within the last 10 days. The about-face also means that Beasley’s staff will remain at the same size as that of her predecessor, Republican Mark Martin, rather than being shrunk to the smallest staff a chief justice has had in more than a decade.

On Thursday Senator Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) tried unsuccessfully to amend the spending measure and avert the cuts. "It just seems morally wrong," he said during debate.

During debate Friday, Senator Danny Britt (R-Robeson) reiterated the belief that the positions were vacant and said in part "the abolishment of these three positions were used to try to spread funds… this had nothing to do with party." Britt offered the amendment that was unanimously approved.

"We so appreciate Senate leadership reaching out to us to discuss and reconsider their proposal to eliminate staff," said Sharon Gladwell, with the North Carolina Judicial Branch, in a statement. "Operating with three staff would have been nearly impossible. We are glad to see these cuts restored and look forward to continuing to work with the General Assembly on a final budget."

After approving its spending plan, senators will now work with House lawmakers to establish a compromise budget to send to the governor.

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