Editorials

GOP tries to further limit Cooper with changes in judicial appointments

Sen. Rick Gunn poses a question as Larry Hall appears before a state Senate committee for his confirmation hearings regarding his nomination for Secretary for Military and Veterans Affairs. He was confirmed for the position.
Sen. Rick Gunn poses a question as Larry Hall appears before a state Senate committee for his confirmation hearings regarding his nomination for Secretary for Military and Veterans Affairs. He was confirmed for the position. cseward@newsobserver.com

If they could, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly would likely take away Gov. Roy Cooper’s authority, period. All of it. No Cabinet. No staff. No car. No mansion.

And they’d chuckle about how they paid back Cooper, a former legislator himself, for the heinous sin of — winning the governor’s office over Republican incumbent Pat McCrory, a fellow they weren’t crazy about anyway. Cooper won that office by a slim margin, but he did win with the most votes from North Carolina citizens. He was their choice, whether Republicans like it or not.

But in their latest infantile gambit, Republicans seek to take away from Cooper his right to appoint judges. One will would reduce the size of the state Court of Appeals just as three Republicans are retiring from that 15-member court. Those three would be replaced by gubernatorial appointment, which likely would mean three Democrats.

A respected former member of the court, Martha Geer, says GOP claims that a reduced workload has justified the reduction in members is just wrong, that the court has been working to reduce an overload for years.

Also in the mix from Republican Rep. Justice Burr, a bail bondsman from Albemarle, is a bill to have the legislature appoint special Superior Court judges who fill court vacancies and travel around the state to plug gaps in some counties. That power now lies, appropriately, with the governor. Burr’s logic is absurd: He says Cooper lost in his conservative district, and therefore wouldn’t appoint the kind of judges his constituents would want.

Good grief. Judges are chosen, or should be, based on reputation, experience, education and character. Period.

Burr’s simply trying to justify bad, brazenly partisan law. And it’s working so far: the House has passed his bills.

The Republicans are making Cooper’s Cabinet appointees go through a confirmation process just to annoy Democrats, and they’ve already reduced Cooper’s available patronage appointments and made it clear they intend to ignore his budget and formulate one of their own more to the liking of the wealthy and big business.

So to say they’ve gone too far in reaching into the selection of judges would be stating the obvious. Their behavior is an insult to Cooper, to the people, to the state constitution. It reflects a certain brand of immaturity.

But this isn’t kickball on the playground, and Republicans don’t get to take their state and go home just because their candidate lost the election.

They are, in their own amateurish, immature way, rewriting the separation of powers to create an imbalance in favor of the General Assembly. It is an abuse of power and an insult to the people they represent.

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