After passing laws imposing new conditions on abortions and elections, taking away teacher tenure and providing vouchers for private school tuition, Republican state legislators have seen those policies stymied in state and federal courtrooms.Yes, that's right: they're going after the courts, and trying to gut the fundamental power of judicial review—the ability of judges to declare laws unconstitutional. As the Charlotte Observer explains:
So they have passed another law, this one making those kinds of lawsuits less likely to succeed when filed in state court. Beginning in September, all constitutional challenges to laws will be heard by three-judge trial court panels appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
The move takes those cases out of the hands of individual Superior Court judges and sends them to be heard in Wake County, where the panels of judges from across the state will assemble when needed....
“It had always bugged me that a local judge, maybe not even elected, could just stop in its tracks an entire state law that had been approved by both bodies and signed by the governor,” said [Francis X. De Luca, a longtime Republican political consultant].
[T]his new law is judge shopping to the extreme: Challenges to state law will now leap straight to a panel selected by the Republican judges who control the state Supreme Court.No other state has tried something like this kind of all-out assault on judges. Yet.
The North Carolina State Bar and the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts oppose the provision, which is the first of its kind in the country. There’s a reason for that: The law deprives plaintiffs the full appeals process they’re entitled to. That includes Superior Court judges issuing stays on legislation being implemented until matters are legally settled.
All of which means that this law, too, can be added to the list of constitutionally flawed measures passed by N.C. Republicans in recent sessions. This year alone, federal judges struck down an N.C. law that would allow a “Choose Life” license plate, but not a pro-choice plate, as well as a provision in an N.C. law that required doctors to narrate ultrasound images for women seeking abortions.
Also this year, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning rebuked legislators for an “unlawful taking” of Asheville’s water system, and Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood had enough concerns with the legislature’s school voucher plan that he temporarily blocked it....
We’re not sure why Republicans continue to hold their hands over the legal flame like this. It could be that controlling the legislature and governor’s mansion has left them with the illusion that no one, not even judges, should be able to tell them no.