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An Independent Judiciary? Apparently Not in North Carolina

by Kaila Cooper, published

The North Carolina legislature approved a bill this week that would re-establish partisan elections for superior and district court judges. The bill was first filed on February 14 by Republican state Representatives Justin Burr, Jason Saine, Dana Bumgardner, and Cody Henson.

On the national level, the discussion over Supreme Court appointments focuses heavily on the importance of an independent judiciary, appointing associate justices that are not intertwined with the partisan politics of the White House or Congress.

Yet, when political pundits talk about an independent judiciary, they seldom discuss partisan judicial elections -- which occur at various levels of the judicial branch in 20 states, according to Ballotpedia. A handful of states even use partisan elections for all of their courts, from the local level to the state supreme court.

In North Carolina, HB 100 enables judges to list their party affiliation on the ballot; intermingling party interests and the law. 

The bill also reduces the amount of time unaffiliated candidates have to gather signatures to petition for their candidacy. This hinders their chances at getting on the general election ballot.

Under HB 100, party-affiliated judges have an advantage since they do not have to get their candidacy petitioned. Their candidacy depends on their party’s nomination, which will more than likely have an impact not only on how they campaign, but their decisions on the bench.

Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has the option of vetoing the bill or passing it into law. If he vetoes, the state House can override it with a 60 percent vote.

Photo Credit: Andrey Burmakin /

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