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A few weeks ago I was asked to be a part of the campaign to defeat two misleading constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot in November.
It was easy to say yes, because as a trial judge on the Superior Court for 33 years, it was my job to call it like it is. To be fiercely independent, apart from partisan politics, an umpire to call the balls and strikes when politicians step over the line.
It is the judge who tells the governor or the legislature when they have overreached or overstepped their authority or when they have violated the Constitution.
That is exactly what has happened with these two amendments that give the legislature the power to fill judicial vacancies and the Board of Ethics and Elections.
In the last several years our judges have struck down a number of laws enacted by the General Assembly that were clearly unconstitutional.
In retaliation, the legislature has come up with a plan to prevent judges from stopping them. This plan will enable the legislators to put their own political supporters on the bench and let them pass any law they choose.
Their plan is a dramatic change to the state constitution and would allow the legislative leadership to hand-pick the people who will fill all judicial vacancies in this state.
They know it would destroy the balance of power that a healthy democracy needs and it would corrupt the integrity of the judiciary. It would put partisan politics in every courtroom in this state.
Under this proposed amendment, do you know who would actually pick the judges to be considered for appointment?
Do not be deceived. Ultimately, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger, two good old boys, they would pick our judges. It’s good old boy politics, pure and simple.
They have compounded this corrupt political idea by proposing an additional constitutional amendment that would permit legislators to appoint all the members of the Board of Ethics and Elections. The same agency responsible for investigating corrupt politicians.
That sounds like foxes appointing foxes to investigate who ate the chickens. We can all guess how that would work.
And finally, these amendments are intentionally written with words that make them sound like a good idea. But when you read the fine print, they turn out to be a bad deal for North Carolina. They were written to deceive the voters and are a fraud on the people.
Because these amendments corrupt the integrity of the judiciary and violate the equal balance of power in our democracy, these amendments are opposed by every past governor and chief justice of the Supreme Court, both Democrats and Republicans. Governors Jim Hunt, Jim Martin, Mike Easley, Bev Perdue, Pat McCrory and Roy Cooper have put partisan politics aside and stand united against this power grab by the state legislature.
I implore you to join them and vote against these destructive amendments.
Donald Stephens served as a Superior Court judge in Wake County for 33 years. He currently appears in a TV ad opposing the two power grab amendments as part of the Stop Deceptive Amendments campaign.