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Governor in Line to Get Removal Powers for Disbarred Judges, DAs

Posted June 19, 2007

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— The state House unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that would give the governor the power to remove disbarred judges and district attorneys — and require him to use it.

The bill wasn't crafted with the Duke lacrosse case in mind, but leaders from all three branches of government agreed the timing was right and the bill was long overdue.

Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong's disbarment and subsequent decision to stay in office another four weeks rubbed many in his profession the wrong way.

“I would call it ‘nifongus,’ where you're professionally unqualified to hold office, but won't leave the office,” said former state Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake.

“It's hard for me to realize that we've come to this stage, where we have a professional that has been disqualified and won't leave office,” Lake said.

The bill, which has to be re-passed by the Senate because of some technical changes the House made, would give the governor new power to declare a district attorney’s or judicial position vacant once the office-holder is disbarred and has exhausted all appeals.

Nifong’s disbarment by the State Bar takes effect in 30 days, and he said he would not appeal the decision and would resign effective July 14.

Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, D-Cumberland, said the catalyst for the bill had nothing to do with Mike Nifong and everything to do with District Judge James Ethridge. Ethridge refused to resign when the bar took his law license last October.

The bar had accused him of defrauding a client out of her money while acting as her attorney, not as a judge.

“He couldn't sit, he continued to draw a salary of a hundred and some thousand dollars a year, and we were having to pay emergency judges to go and hold court,” Rand said.

Written for Ethridge and pushed through because of Nifong, the bill has overwhelming support from both chambers, and Gov. Mike Easley has pledged to sign the bill when it reaches his desk’s signature.

8 Comments

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  • readme Jun 20, 2007

    What's the big deal here. Maybe he was just sticking around to train a replacement or something, or tie up loose ends. Some might say it's a courtesy that he wanted to work another month. We call that two weeks notice in corporate america.

  • davidgnews Jun 20, 2007

    Never at a loss to put a new law on the books. Just goes to show how fast something will get passed when everyone jumps on a bandwagon.

    Thanks, Nifong. Now, if you could only work against corporate welfare!

  • DrJ Jun 20, 2007

    It's amazing that a law like this is even necessary. But given the arrogance demonstrated recently by people like Jim Black and members of our Wake Board of Education, I really shouldn't be so surprised.

  • lgboro Jun 20, 2007

    wonder if we still have time to add "education governors" to the list of undesirable snakes the bill covers.

  • shine Jun 20, 2007

    Is that like being fired and refusing to leave? To one lizard another lizard looks good - so how do we expect the lawyers to fire the lawyers and do it adequatly. What it does is open the door for "pardons" that will have no public control although there is very little of that now. The DA's and the Judges already have a firm grip with each other - and throw goverment in - - - sounds like a "sales" job to me. If the governor doesn't do what we think as majority ....... can we throw him out????????

  • Know All Jun 20, 2007

    I agree choppa, enough is enough. There will have to be another breaking story happen to lay this to rest. Maybe it will be from the Brunswick Co. Sheriff having to testify to the Federal Grand Jury today and tomorrow. Trust me. "I know."

  • NC_VET Jun 20, 2007

    Well I am glad the State Government finally got something that
    will be of use. Oh, Choppa hate to bust your dreams - but that
    issue is far from being over. Remember what they say about
    iceburges - you only see the tip - whats underneath will sink
    the boat.

  • choppa Jun 20, 2007

    Okay I'm going to bed. Wait I have to say my prayers...

    Now as I lay down to sleep I pray O'Lord that when I wake there will be no more Lacrosse stories. Amen.