Group advocates for removal of judges from party affiliation

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 6:49 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A group by the name Fair Courts NC wants to stop judges from affiliating with a political party. They are driving around the east to speak in favor of this idea. WITN talked to them during their stop at Pitt County Courthouse.

“We need fair, impartial and independent courts,” explained Melisa Price Kromm, with North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections.

She spoke Thursday morning on behalf of Fair Courts NC. The group stopped in Greenville Thursday, to advocate for the separation of judges from political parties.

Price Kromm was joined by ACLU board member Craig Merrill and Arlecia Simmons with the NC Council of Churches. “I think we’ve just seen a continued partisan divide that’s now expanded into the courts,” Merrill said. “That’s really what prompted this is to stop trying to have the partisan influence on something that should be purely judicial.”

The group has three aspects to its mission.

“First, do not make judges run in partisan elections. You can do this by lowering ballot thresholds so judges can run as independent. Or we can go back to non-partisan, judicial elections,” Price Kromm explained.

Second, not allowing judges to be involved politically, such as endorsing candidates. And third, what they call recusal reform - meaning reform to the way things like conflicts of interest are handled. Doing these things, supporters said, will help achieve fairness.

“Not everybody who wants to do right by people in the legal system may have deep pockets or maybe have those affiliations or might not be in the crowds of the political forces,” explained Simmons.

“They don’t wear red robes or blue robes, they wear black robes because they’re there to uphold the rule of law,” said Price Kromm emphatically. She also cited recent actions of Chief Justice Paul Newby as a reason behind the increased ferocity of their efforts.

WITN reached out to get input from several North Carolina Supreme Court Justices to get their response to the idea of removing judges from partisanship. However, someone from the administrative office said they cannot comment due to several cases before the court right now, where various justices are being asked to recuse themselves. We also reached out to Representative Chris Humphrey as well as Representative John R. Bell. and will update this story upon receiving a response.

Fair Courts NC will stop in Fayettville next. They are focusing their efforts on eastern NC.

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