Cooper does end run around GOP court reduction plan

Posted April 24

Gov. Roy Cooper names Judge John Arrowood to the state Court of Appeals on April 24, 2017.

— Republican legislative efforts to cut the size of the state Court of Appeals took an unexpected hit Monday when Judge Douglas McCullough took early retirement and Gov. Roy Cooper named Judge John Arrowood to take his place.

Lawmakers recently approved legislation that would reduce the Court of Appeals from 15 judges to 12 in the next couple of years as McCullough and two other judges hit the mandatory retirement age. Cooper vetoed that bill Friday, and neither the House nor the Senate has scheduled a vote to override his veto.

McCullough, 71, a Republican who served on the Court of Appeals from 2000 to 2008 and again since 2010, disagreed with lawmakers' attempts to meddle with the court, Cooper said, noting the judge approached his staff over the weekend to discuss stepping down and allowing Cooper the chance to appoint someone to the remaining 20 months of his term before the veto is overridden and the law takes effect.

"He believes strongly in the integrity of the court," Cooper said Monday at a news conference to announce Arrowood's appointment. "I want to commend and thank him for his career and also thank him for resigning today to show this important message to the North Carolina General Assembly, to our courts and to the citizens of this state."

The governor said he hasn't spoken to Judge Robert Hunter and Judge Ann Marie Calabria, the other two judges who will have to retire in the next couple of years because of age, about their intentions. Like McCullough, both are Republicans.

Arrowood, 60, was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 2007 by then-Gov. Mike Easley, becoming the first openly gay appellate judge in North Carolina. He was defeated when he ran for re-election the following year and also lost his campaign to return to the court in 2014. He has been practicing law in Charlotte but resigned from his firm Monday to be sworn in as judge.

"After his nonstop rhetoric about ‘partisan politics having no place on the judges’ bench,’ Gov. Cooper needs to explain why he put his partisan allegiance above the voters by singlehandedly changing the party makeup of the Court of Appeals with a Democrat who was soundly rejected by them in 2014," said Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.


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  • Nicolle Leney Apr 27, 4:00 p.m.
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    Seriously??? You realize everything the GA pulled before Cooper was even a day in office?

    They INTENTIONALLY delayed Hurricane Matthew aid so they could announce the "special" session if McCrory lost. They reversed laws made just for McCrory (# of appointees, specific departments added to McCrory’s list). This sudden need for “fairness” would have never happened if McCrory won---the combined elections/ethics board, shrinking the Court of Appeals, yet again messing with the ballot order, reducing the number of political appointees---NONE of it.

    They CONTINUALLY treat the General Statutes like something written with erasable ink that they can change back and forth on a whim. They have made it clear they have complete control over ALL THREE branches of government and the gerrymandering has ensured that. Approx. 50/50 for president and governor but a supermajority in both the House and Senate? Nothing this GA does anymore is legitimate

  • Nicolle Leney Apr 27, 3:14 p.m.
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    This is a REPUBLICAN judge that put the state of NC and the good of his fellow judges above partisan allegiance. As noted in the N&O, " 'I did not want my legacy to be the elimination of a seat and the impairment of a court that I have served on,' McCullough said Monday morning after the announcement." (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article146378394.html)

    Reducing the number of judges one by one is going to be a nightmare FOR that court because they hear cases in panels of three. This judge knows that and is trying to at least delay this logistical nightmare that is going to immediately increase the workload on his fellow justices.

  • Tom Marthers Apr 25, 4:00 p.m.
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    How Conveinent is it that Judge took early retirement, and OH, Cooper selected a JUDGE that would pass it, Hmm, sounds fishy to me.

  • Brian Edwards Apr 24, 4:51 p.m.
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    Good to see that members of the judiciary can rise above partisan politics and put the judiciary first. To reduce the court by even one judge would increase the workload of all the other judges at a time when they are already overworked.

  • Alfred Barnes Apr 24, 3:38 p.m.
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    Not my Governor.

  • Alfred Barnes Apr 24, 3:37 p.m.
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    I suppose this legitimizes anything the GOP led legislature might consider in retaliation. Cooper will go down as the worst Gov ever in the state of NC.