Editorials

Packing N.C.’s high court for political advantage would abuse the legislative process

The election of Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan to the state Supreme Court has balanced the court 4-3 in favor of more liberal justices. However the General Assembly could change that balance by adding two justices who would be appointed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
The election of Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael Morgan to the state Supreme Court has balanced the court 4-3 in favor of more liberal justices. However the General Assembly could change that balance by adding two justices who would be appointed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Were this not the General Assembly that brought us racially gerrymandered congressional and legislative districts, HB2, a now unconstitutional marriage amendment and other follies, this one would be hard to believe: As last week ended, speculation grew in Raleigh that Republicans in the legislature may, in the course of a special session to address hurricane relief, also increase membership on the state Supreme Court to a chief justice and eight associate justices.

That would be a boost of two, who would be appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, and he would naturally follow the wishes of lawmakers to name very conservative Republican judges to the posts.

And why this all of a sudden? Because in the recent election, incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds, a Republican, was defeated by Judge Mike Morgan, a judge supported by Democrats and likely member of the court’s liberal group. With Morgan, that group would have four members to the conservatives’ three.

State Senate leader Phil Berger should have dismissed the speculation emphatically. Instead his office said it does not comment on rumors. We’ll take that to mean it could happen until the Republican leadership says it won’t.

Packing the court to offset the effect of an election would be an abuse of the legislative process. We hope the legal community quickly stands against any manipulation of the high court.

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