North Carolina’s Democratic Governor signed a bill into law which will keep the state’s number of Court of Appeals judges at 15.
“A strong and unbowed, independent judiciary that works as part of our system of checks and balances is critical to our democracy and freedom,” said Cooper in a brief statement.
Roy Cooper signed off on Senate Bill 75, which repeals a 2017 law (S. L. 2017-7) which would have reduced the Court of Appeals judgeships beginning whenever a vacancy was created until 12 judges remained.
“On or after January 1, 2017, whenever the seat of an incumbent judge becomes vacant prior to the expiration of the judge’s term due to the death, resignation, retirement, impeachment, or removal pursuant to G.S. 7A-374.2(8) of the incumbent judge, that seat is abolished until the total number of Court of Appeals seats is decreased to 12.”
Senate Bill 75 passed quickly and almost unanimously through both sides of the General Assembly, save for a single ‘nay’ vote in the House. The bill was filed on the 18th and Governor Cooper signed it on the 27th.
The first vacancy that would have reduced the appeals court was set to happen in late March.
The law to restore the judgeships and short circuits the current legal case involved.
Governor Cooper has filed numerous lawsuits against the legislature, including one over the Court of Appeals. In that case, a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the Republicans, but appeal arguments for that case are now on the doorstep of the state Supreme Court which is currently dominated 6-1 by Democrats.
Last month, North Carolina Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Mark Martin, a Republican, stepped down to take on a role at a law school in Virginia.
Governor Cooper announced Associate Justice Cheri Beasley would take the Chief spot. In elevating a black female associate justice from his own party, Cooper bypassed the next most experienced member of the court, Senior Associate Justice Paul Newby, who is the only other Republican on the court.
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