Experts raised questions Wednesday about the constitutionality not only of proposed new judicial districts in North Carolina, but the state’s current ones as well. Years of inattention, preceded by decades of political tinkering, left the districts North Carolina uses to elect judges with unbalanced populations in faster-growing urban areas. That opens them to constitutional attack, a pair of attorneys with a long history in state government told state senators gathered to discuss controversial judicial reforms. The state addressed this issue years ago in Wake County, but similar issues linger in Mecklenburg County and, potentially, in other areas, according to Michael Crowell, the former executive director of North Carolina’s Commission for the Future of Justice and the Courts, and Gerry Cohen, an attorney who worked with the legislature for more than 30 years.
State Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly, has repeatedly made similar arguments for his proposed new judicial maps. Even Democrats who are wary of another effort from the Republican legislative majority to tinker with the judiciary concede changes are needed. But there was a catch Wednesday for GOP legislators eager to pass some sort of reform: Burr’s proposal could be open to constitutional attacks as well, Cohen and Crowell said.
Those maps, laid out in House Bill 717, double-bunk a number of sitting black judges and could potentially be challenged under the Voting Rights Act, Cohen said. Lawsuits pending now regarding partisan redistricting could change the rules, opening the map to that line of legal challenge, he said. Legislative Democrats have said repeatedly that the new districts were drawn to favor Republican judicial candidates.
Full Article: Senate gears up on judicial redistricting :: WRAL.com.