Democrats Sue in Bid to Restore North Carolina Judicial Primaries

(CN) – North Carolina Democrats filed a lawsuit against their Republican colleagues on the state legislature Tuesday in a bid to restore primary primary elections for statewide and local judgeships that had been scheduled for the spring.

The lawsuit filed in the Middle District of North Carolina by John Wallace of Wallace & Nordan in Raleigh, North Carolina, asks a federal judge to overturn a plan by the state’s GOP-led General Assembly to skip the judicial primaries next year and have judges voted on only once, in the November general election.

The move is part of a larger effort by the Republicans to redraw judicial districts and make other changes in the state court system that Democrats claim will interfere with judges’ independence and making them more partisan.

“The elimination of primaries for judicial offices is in direct conflict with good and important public policies recognized and embraced by the defendants themselves and is not in the public interest,” the complaint says.

It continues: “The public interests harmed by the elimination of primaries for judicial offices include the public’s interests in an informed an knowledgeable electorate, the public’s interest in the reduction of voter confusion and the public’s interest in ensuring that person’s elected to public office are supported by a majority of voters.”

The General Assembly overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the legislation codifying the changes in October.

Cooper had said he vetoed the Electoral Freedom Act of 2017, because “it takes away the right of the people to vote for the judges of their choice.”

Democrats argue that eliminating the primaries creates a situation where a candidates could prevail with less than a 20 percent majority and will result in less qualified candidates being elected.

Attorneys John Wallace and his co-counsel, Eddie Speas Poyner Spruill LLP in Raleigh, claim the legislation contradicts earlier laws that protected partisan elections of judges and justices.

According to the complaint, the legislation is unconstitutional and quashes political party’s right to nominate a candidate for election.

“The defendants have not articulated and cannot articulate any compelling or important regulatory interests that work justify the elimination of primaries for the partisan election of judges and justices of the District Courts, the superior courts of the appellate courts,” the complaint states.

Joseph Kyzer, spokesman for GOP state House Speaker Tim Moore, said in a statement that the filing of the lawsuit is “a new low for Democrats’ persistent abuse of the court system to litigate what they cannot legislate – their state party is suing General Assembly leaders for actually listening and responding to the requests of Democrat members for a thorough, transparent judicial reform process that is still underway.”

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