Editorial: Governor can put up or shut up

Dec. 05, 2012 @ 06:24 PM

North Carolina’s highest court is getting a lot more attention than normal these days. We’re sure there is more to come, including a put up or shut up moment from Gov. Bev Perdue.
Officially, election to the state Supreme Court is in non-partisan manner. But it’s really not. Electioneers readily hand out lists of judges to voters on Election Day signifying where the judges are known to lean.
Sam Ervin IV was a candidate this fall against Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby. Newby is a registered Republican and conservative groups funneled large sums of money into his winning re-election. The campaign’s recognizable signature came via a banjo-picking commercial.
The GOP-controlled legislature’s redistricting plans have been sued, and groups are asking Newby to recuse himself from the court proceedings.
Then came word just after Thanksgiving Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson was retiring from the Supreme Court bench. Her term is scheduled to end in 2014.
She’s the only black woman to ever serve North Carolina’s highest court, and she’s done so admirably. Timmons-Goodson is one of three Democrats on the seven-member bench.
The retirement is effective Dec. 17. Perdue leaves office in early January.
The stakes from the lawsuit are high. Watchers of courtrooms will assure anything can happen when a group inside is making a decision, be it a jury or justices. Democrats and many of their liberal-leaning groups believe the next decade is at stake, until a new census and redistricting takes place.
Earlier in her administration Perdue wanted to take politics out of the process and created a judicial nominating commission. The 18-member commission recommends three candidates to the governor, who must pick one of the three. It was a good idea.
One member of the panel, former chief justice Burley Mitchell, said the panel wouldn’t have time before Perdue exits to take up an appointment.
Perdue could rescind her executive order and make the appointment herself.
But if she believes in the commission she created, and taking politics out of the nomination equation, she’ll leave her order in place and respectfully wait for Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory to make the decision.