Voters will see yet another proposed amendment to the North Carolina Constitution on their November ballots.
Today, House Republicans approved a proposed constitutional amendment to change the way judicial vacancies are filled. The proposal would create a non-partisan judicial merit commission to vet nominees to fill seats vacated by elected judges. Members of that commission would be appointed by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, the governor and the General Assembly. Then the General Assembly would narrow nominees to at least two candidates, and the governor would make the final selection.
Democratic leader Darren Jackson proposed two amendments to the proposal during House debate Thursday. One would eliminate the proposed term of two years and instead subject appointees to the seat's next regularly scheduled election, as is now the case for appointed judges. Jackson's second proposed amendment to the bill would make it so that the appointment process would not apply to newly-created judicial seats.
When Republicans voted both amendments down, Jackson said it gave evidence to his suspicions that the GOP plans to add seats to the State Supreme Court - and have a stronger influence over the selection of new justices.
"It's become clear to me that this is nothing but a court-packing scheme," Jackson said, challenging his Republican colleagues to deny that they planned to expand the state supreme court.
Republican Representative David Lewis said the bill is simply an attempt to find a better way to fill judicial vacancies - which are currently chosen by the governor from nominees selected by local bar associations.
Voters will decide on the amendment to the state constitution this fall.