Washington, D.C. — Dramatic changes to North Carolina’s state court system could lead to fewer African American judges on the bench, according to a new issue brief from the Center for American Progress.
The brief says that these changes are a calculated attack on a court system that has repeatedly struck down laws that trample on voting rights. The state’s General Assembly will soon consider a bill that redraws the boundaries for judicial districts, as well as a constitutional amendment giving legislators the sole power to choose judges. These proposals would likely result in less diversity on the courts.
“The greatest threat to judicial diversity may be handing over the reins of the judiciary to the same legislature that has suppressed black voters,” said Billy Corriher, deputy director for Legal Progress at CAP and a co-author of the brief.
As North Carolina has become the epicenter of the fight against voter suppression, state and federal courts have protected voters’ rights. And judges of color have played a key role in these decisions.
According to the brief, eliminating the voices of judges of color also would limit the political power of people of color in North Carolina.
North Carolina state Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr. said the brief confirms his view that some of the changes being proposed could significantly reduce the number of women and minorities serving on North Carolina courts.
“They could also reduce the number of well-qualified candidates willing to serve as judges in the future,” McKissick said.
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