Under the Dome

NAACP will sue if Republicans pursue ‘court packing’ of Supreme Court, Barber says

Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP speaks at the HKonJ march in downtown Raleigh on Feb. 13, 2016.
Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP speaks at the HKonJ march in downtown Raleigh on Feb. 13, 2016. hlynch@newsobserver.com

NAACP leader William Barber said Friday that his organization will file a lawsuit if state legislators try to add seats to the N.C. Supreme Court to dilute the influence of Democratic judges.

Since Wake County Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan, a Democrat, unseated Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds, a Republican, rumors have swirled about a possible “court packing” plan to tilt the balance back in favor of GOP judges.

If its leaders choose to do so, the General Assembly could expand the seven-member Supreme Court to nine members. And if it added two judges in a planned December special session on Hurricane Matthew relief, Gov. Pat McCrory could appoint the extra judges – before January if he doesn’t win a second term.

Barber said his group would fight any change to the Supreme Court, noting that the number of justices has stayed the same since 1936.

“If they attempt this, we have already set in motion to turn our lawyers loose under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to challenge this power grab,” Barber said Friday. “Enough is enough.”

In an interview this week with Time Warner Cable News, Senate leader Phil Berger said Republicans haven’t been discussing the issue. But he didn’t rule out the possibility, and he noted that Democrats years ago added seats to another court.

The only people I’ve heard talking about that have been members of the press and Democrats,” Berger told reporter Loretta Boniti. “There have been no discussions in our caucus about that issue.”

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