Talk about impeachment if North Carolina High Court rejects district maps


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Dallas Woodhouse, the former executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

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Dallas Woodhouse, the former executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, sometimes makes bold comments just to be provocative. But other times, he says what his party leaders think.

That’s why, with a looming showdown between the legislature and the state Supreme Court, it’s intriguing that he mentions the impeachment of members of the court.

In 2018 wooden house talked about impeachment members of the state Supreme Court if they blocked constitutional amendments passed by the legislature from appearing on the ballot. Now he raises the word “I” again. This time it’s in regards to the state Supreme Court’s upcoming review of heavily gerrymandered district maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature.

Woodhouse, now a political analyst for the John Locke FoundationCaroline’s Diary wrote last week that Republican lawmakers want to push back the North Carolina primary from May 17 to June. He said Republicans believe they may need more time to redraw the maps if the state Supreme Court rejects them. He was right. A bill that move main date to June 7 was tabled in the Senate on Monday.

However, if the state Supreme Court, frustrated by the legislature’s inability to adequately correct the maps, were to take it upon itself to redraw the lines, Woodhouse wrote, “Some legislators are pushing their leaders for an aggressive response. As to what that would be, he wrote: “Apart from the power to impeach judges, it is unclear what the General Assembly might do.”

With that, Woodhouse raised a nuclear option to protect Republican cards. Under an 1868 state law, a House impeachment vote — only a simple majority is needed — would suspend the targeted judge(s) from voting until a Senate trial ends with a verdict. .

Republicans have already called for judges Anita Earl and Sam Ervin, the two Democrats, to recuse themselves from ruling on district maps due to their alleged conflicts of interest. On Tuesday, state Senate Republicans issued a press release about Earls receiving campaign contributions from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. He said his “conflicts are obvious and glaring”.

If Earls and Ervin were impeached and suspended pending trial, then the court would have a 3-2 Republican majority that could uphold a lower court’s ruling that the maps are legally drawn.

Gerry Cohen, an expert on the General Assembly’s legislative processes and its history, said the legal basis for such action would be questionable. The law calls for the suspension of impeached officers, he said, but it contradicts the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which gives citizens the right to a hearing before a lawsuit is brought. be brought against them.

Cohen also pointed to a 2013 Superior Court decision regarding an attempted removal of a member of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. In this case, a court ruled that the commissioner could not be removed without first being heard by an independent investigative body.

“The 1868 law saying a person is suspended pending trial is of questionable constitutionality based on case law and the 14th Amendment saying you have a right to a hearing,” Cohen said.

If House Republicans impeach Earls and Ervin, it would likely be up to the state Supreme Court to decide whether their suspensions would be constitutional. This raises another question: Could Earls and Ervin vote on the legality of their own impeachment?

Admittedly, this convoluted and extreme scenario is unlikely, but there is a sign that Republicans want to keep it as an option. The December 10 joint resolution adjourning the 2021 legislative session stated that only 10 types of legislation could be considered after the legislature resumes on December 30. North Carolina Constitution or General Statutes Chapter 123.

Chapter 123, article 12 says: “Any officer impeached is suspended from the exercise of his functions until his acquittal.”

Stay tuned.

Associate Opinion Editor Ned Barnett can be reached at 919-829-4512, or [email protected]

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