Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed bills that would cut the state appeals court by three judges and deny the governor’s political party control of the state elections board. The legislature is likely to vote to override the vetoes. House Bill 239 would reduce the state Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 members, which would prevent replacement of three Republican judges approaching mandatory retirement age. Senate Bill 68 would consolidate the state elections and ethics boards. The new board would have eight members, four from each major political party, with a Republican chairman in presidential-election years and a Democratic chairman in midterm-election years. Local elections boards would also be split. A three-judge panel struck down an earlier attempt by Republicans to merge the boards.
In a statement Friday, the Democratic governor said Republicans are trying to politicize the courts. “Having three fewer judges will increase the court’s workload and delay timely appeals,” he wrote of HB 239. “Just as bad is the real motivation of Republican legislators, which is to stack the court with judges of their own party. Earlier this session, Republican legislators already injected partisan politics into our courts by slapping political party labels on all judicial races.”
Republicans say they want to shrink the court because of its workload. The bill would also send more cases directly to the state Supreme Court.
Last month, Cooper issued his first veto to block the legislature’s restoration of partisan elections for judges. The legislature went on to enact that law through a veto override.