Under the Dome

May 16, 2014

New plan to get rid of NC's special superior court judges

Last year North Carolina Senate Republicans really wanted to get rid of the 12 special superior court judges who travel the state hearing cases. They failed, but House GOP members will make another run at it this year with a new way to accomplish the goal: gradually.

Last year state Senate Republicans really wanted to get rid of the 12 special superior court judges who travel the state hearing cases. But the House balked in the face of blowback from the legal community, and in the end it didn’t happen.

House Republicans have an alternate plan, though, that comes up with a new way to accomplish the goal: gradually.

House Bill 1078 filed by Rep. Justin Burr, a Republican from Albemarle, and Rep. Ted Davis, a Republican from Wilmington, would phase out the judges as they leave office.

The bill would eliminate the positions of the judges as each one retires, resigns, has their term expire, is removed or dies. To compensate, their plan relies on calling up more judges who have left office, and raising the age at which they can serve from 72 to 76 years old.

These emergency superior court judges, who are called on when needed and particpate voluntarily, would be required to keep up with legal education courses, under the bill.

The three statewide business court special judges would not be phased out; in fact, their terms would be extended to eight years.

There was a lot of inter-party fighting over this issue last year, when the Senate GOP leadership tried to eliminate the 12 judges in a far-reaching bill that swept out incumbents on numerous state boards. State law forbids legislators from removing specific judges from office – because of separation of powers – but getting rid of their positions gets around that concern.

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