Raleigh, N.C. — Governors would be able to ignore the recommendation of the the local bar association when filing vacancies on in District Courts under a measure tacked onto an unrelated bill in the House Rules Committee Thursday afternoon.
The bulk of Senate Bill 321 deals with funding of medical care for prisoners. However, a provision added in during a committee meeting deals with how the governor appoints district judges.
Under current law, the bar association for the district interviews candidates and offers the governor recommendations. The governor is required to select from among that group.
The bill Rules Committee members approved would allow the governor to ignore that recommendation.
"This is giving the governor more flexibility when filling those vacancies," Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanley, said.
There was some question as to whether the measure might allow for politics to hold more influence over those decisions. Rep. Larry Hall, D-Durham, said the current system has ensured quality candidates fill vacancies without respect to politics.
"There's just as much politics in the bar association as there is in this building," Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, said. "It does no harm."
Update: Moore attempted to have the full House hear this bill on Thursday afternoon, raising the ire of some in the chamber.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said that the bill "diminishes the integrity of the governor's appointment" because it would remove the only vetting process in place for district court judges.
Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, noted the debate on the issue and asked that it be sent back to the Judiciary Committee.
Moore initially opposed the motion, saying the bill merely gave the governor more latitude and that he knew of no controversy.
But Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said that as of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the provision wasn't part of the bill. It only showed up in committee at 2:30 p.m.m on Thursday, he said.
""The reason he doesn't know of any controversy is because nobody knew this bill was on the table," Jackson said.
Moore then said he had found a "technical issue" and joined in Stevens' motion to have the bill reviewed by the Judiciary Committee.
The state House will not return to session until the week after the Fourth of July.