The dust is still settling after Justice Paul Newby’s reelection to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, but another interesting development in the court’s future has emerged with the resignation of Justice Patricia A. Timmons-Goodson.
Justice Timmons-Goodson, probably the most liberal member of the court, has written Governor Bev Perdue to inform her of her decision to retire effective December 17th. Perdue, a Democrat who will soon be succeeded by Republican Pat McCrory, faces a dilemma because the Missouri Plan commission that she established in April 2011 through Executive Order 86, to “take the politics out of nominating judges in North Carolina,” does not have enough time to complete the nomination process before Perdue leaves office.
If Perdue does not fill the vacancy in the next several weeks, McCrory will be the one interacting with the nominating commission and ultimately appointing the new justice, assuming he wouldn’t rescind the executive order and abolish the commission altogether. Which means the conservative advantage on the court could increase from 4-3 to 5-2.
Perdue has several options.
Option 2: Allow the process to play out as it would under ordinary circumstances, which would put McCrory in the driver’s seat.
Perdue currently plans to follow option 1, and modify her order to get around it.
I would like to believe that Governor Perdue’s evolution on judicial selection reflects a newly found conviction that the governor should be free to pick judges who reflect her judicial philosophy, and not be bound by the nominations of an unaccountable lawyer-dominated commission. Sadly, I think the truth is that she found herself trapped by her own political charade. Whatever the case, let’s hope McCrory is paying attention and refuses to give life to such a stupid plan in the first place.