From The Greensboro News & Record: 'Empty chair town hall' on judicial issues to be held in Greensboro
Concerned voters and members of the legal community will join NC Voters for Clean Elections, Democracy NC, NC NAACP, the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad, and Progress NC in Greensboro on Thursday, November 30 at 7:00pm for an “Empty Chair Town Hall” spotlighting attempts by state lawmakers to rig the judicial system in their favor.
A number of bills have either been passed or are being considered by the General Assembly that would wreak havoc on judicial independence in North Carolina. One proposal would eliminate the election of judges altogether, letting legislators cherry-pick partisan judges with no oversight from voters. Another proposal would hyper-politicize judicial elections by forcing judges to run for re-election every two years (instead of four or eight), unfairly slashing the terms of duly-elected judges and forcing them to campaign and hold political fundraisers instead of dispensing justice.
Several advocacy groups have scheduled an “empty chair town hall” meeting Thursday in Greensboro to criticize efforts now under way to change the way that judges in North Carolina are placed in office.
A gathering at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanuel, 1129 Jefferson Road, takes aim at moves currently afoot in the Republican-led General Assembly to “rig the system in their favor,” activist group Progress NC stated Monday in a news release.
“All state lawmakers representing Guilford County were invited to attend regardless of party affiliation and will be given an equal opportunity to discuss their support for or opposition to these attacks on the courts,” Progress NC stated.
An empty chair will be placed on stage for each local legislator who does not attend or sign a pledge to “oppose partisan attacks on the judicial system,” Progress NC spokesman Logan Smith said.
The group highlighted four bills in various stages of approval in Raleigh that it described as “partisan attacks on North Carolina’s court system.”
Leading GOP legislators instead characterize their efforts as reform measures aimed at improving the efficiency and responsiveness of a system that has not been updated for decades.
But critics allege efforts that require judges to list their political party affiliations and that create new election districts statewide are intended to weaken judicial independence.
Progress NC notes that under one measure currently being considered “nearly half of all black judges would be packed into a district with another incumbent, forcing them to run against each other or step down.”
Other groups involved in the event include NC Voters for Clean Elections, Democracy North Carolina, the North Carolina NAACP and the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad.