Cary, N.C. — The North Carolina Bar Association is urging Gov. Pat McCrory to veto legislation that would change how state judges are disciplined.
House Bill 652 strips the Judicial Standards Commission of its authority to issue public reprimands and places all forms of public discipline in the hands of the North Carolina Supreme Court. All disciplinary hearings would be private, and case records would be confidential unless the Supreme Court decides to take disciplinary action.
Also, the Supreme Court would be allowed to discipline its own members, a responsibility now held by the most senior six judges of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
The bill initially passed the House in April as a measure to allow children born out of wedlock to inherit some of a deceased parent's estate, but the Senate replaced that language with the judicial discipline provisions last month. The revamped legislation failed 22-12 in a July 19 vote on the Senate floor, but it was revived a week later as the General Assembly wrapped up its 2013 session and passed 28-14.
“We feel, as an organization, it is important to stand up for transparency, on behalf of the profession, and more importantly on behalf the citizens of North Carolina," Bar Association President Alan Duncan said in a statement. "It is the belief of the Bar Association that the existing system has worked well and that this legislation is not necessary.”
Chief Judge John Martin of the Court of Appeals, who also serves as chairman of the Judicial Standards Commission, voiced concerns about the proposals when they were contained in another bill. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker agrees with Martin’s concerns.