Bench Memos

Governor Perdue Kills Merit Selection

North Carolina governor Bev Perdue has issued an executive order ”temporarily modifying” a previous executive order in which she established a so-called “merit selection” system for appointing judges. Under the terms of her new EO, she will simply appoint a nominee of her choosing rather than select from a panel of nominees submitted by an independent commission. As I reported last week, members of the nominating commission had informed her that they would not have time to fill a vacancy on the state supreme court before Pat McCrory, a Republican, became governor.  So this was a transparently partisan move to prevent her successor from appointing a more conservative judge to the court.

The text of the new EO could have been written by the Onion:

Section 1.  With respect to all judicial vacancies that currently exist or that may arise between the present date and the end of my term as Governor, the process contained in Executive Order No. 86 shall be modified as set out herein.  For such vacancies, I will exercise my constitutional and statutory authority to fill the vacancies without first receiving nominations from the Commission.  However, I plan to consult with individual members of the Commission as I deem appropriate to seek their input regarding the qualifications of specific candidates for appointment.

But . . .

Section 2. I urge future Governors to continue utilizing the Commission to assist them in filling judicial vacancies for all of the reasons set forth in Executive Order No. 86.

If Governor Perdue’s dabbling in the Missouri Plan was ever about “merit” or “taking the politics out of judicial selection,” those vacuous rhetorical points so frequently emphasized by Missouri Plan advocates, then why abolish it the minute there was even a chance a conservative could be appointed? Because in North Carolina, as in every Missouri Plan state, that method was always about providing window dressing for the capture of the bench by left-leaning special interests.  

Carrie Severino is chief counsel and policy director to the Judicial Crisis Network.

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