Under the Dome

Dome: Lawyers group asks McCrory to veto a judicial discipline bill

August 6, 2013 

Editor's note: This story incorrectly stated the state Senate voted 42-28 to approve a bill making the discipline of judges less public. The vote was actually 28-14 in favor.

The state’s main professional organization for lawyers on Tuesday asked the governor to veto a bill that would protect from public disclosure judges who are disciplined.

House Bill 652 would take away the authority of the Judicial Standards Commission to issue public reprimands unless the state Supreme Court agrees and discloses the information. It would also make disciplinary hearings private and keep case records confidential, unless the Supreme Court takes disciplinary action.

The bill would also let the Supreme Court discipline its own members instead of assigning those cases to the six most senior judges on the state Court of Appeals.

“We feel, as an organization, it is important to stand up for transparency on behalf of the profession, and more importantly on behalf of the citizens of North Carolina,” Alan Duncan, president of the N.C. Bar Association, said in a statement released Tuesday.

Duncan said the association had analyzed the bill extensively and determined the current system works well.

Appellate Chief Judge John Martin, who is chairman of the Judicial Standards Commission, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker have expressed concerns about the legislation, the association said.

The bill scooted through the General Assembly in the final hours of the session, after being defeated a week earlier when 14 Republican senators joined eight Democrats. At the time, Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Hendersonville, said it “sounds like lawyers protecting lawyers.”

But Sen. Buck Newton, a Republican who represents part of Johnston County, said judges should be protected from reprimands that have “false or twisted accusations.” The bill was later revived without any changes and was passed 28-14 in the Senate late at night, and 54-47 in the House (with bipartisan opposition) the next morning.

A public reprimand of a judge is based on misconduct that is considered minor and can include requiring corrective action.

McCrory to wait to sign bills

McCrory won’t act on that bill or any of the others now sitting on his desk this week.

At a meeting of the Council of State on Tuesday, the governor said he had “reviewed in detail” each of the 38 bills awaiting action but said he will wait until next week to “either sign, veto or not sign the remainder of the 38 bills.”

The governor did not take questions from reporters after the meeting about his thoughts on any of the high-profile pieces of legislation awaiting him. They include major changes to the state’s election laws and a sweeping overhaul of various regulations, including those that govern landfills and billboards.

Brannon gets RedState support

Erick Erickson, editor of the political blog RedState.com and an influential tea party pundit, slammed Thom Tillis’ U.S. Senate bid, throwing his support behind the relatively unknown Greg Brannon in the GOP primary.

Speaking at his organization’s gathering in New Orleans last weekend, Erickson said of Tillis: “He is terrible. You do not want this person.”

“Who you do want,” Erickson continued, “is a doctor who is here to speak to you who may not be as high in the polls as the speaker of the House of (Representatives) in North Carolina. But neither were Marco Rubio or Rand Paul or Mike Lee or Ted Cruz, but with your help (they) won. And we have to help this guy, Greg Brannon.”

Brannon spoke for roughly 20 minutes and answered questions. He gave his personal story, recounting his mother giving birth to him when she was 19 and growing up in California. He is a practicing ob-gyn in Cary who is married with seven children, the last three adopted from China.

Brannon focused his political remarks on attacking the federal health care law and what he called an “Obama-nation” with the White House stepping on “our Constitution’s toes.”

Tillis is the most prominent Republican in the party primary so far, but his campaign is having trouble gaining traction. Brannon is getting fringe support, but Erickson’s backing represents the first notable endorsement from outside North Carolina.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Rob Christensen and John Frank

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