Editorial: Disappointing law is signed by McCrory

Aug. 26, 2013 @ 08:37 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory has delivered a disappointing decision.

Among 33 new laws he signed Friday was House Bill 652. We called for the governor to issue a veto, as did some highly respected justices and member organizations of the judicial community.

The Judicial Standards Commission previously had authority for disciplining judges. The hearings were public, just like the trials the judges preside over daily. The records of the actions were public, just like the cases the judges preside over daily.

The governor gave the state Supreme Court authority on discipline. Hearings are not public. McCrory is allowing that court to decide when and if records of proceedings go public. Specific orders have to be given.

The idea of “good ’ol boys” helping each other on the bench is alive and well under the McCrory administration. Even if they don’t.

Back in January, McCrory’s first executive order turned back former Gov. Bev Perdue’s nonpartisan judicial nominating commission. He said it didn’t work. She helped his position with a move that undermined the commission at the end of her term.

The idea was to prevent appointments of favor.

McCrory said, when called upon, he’d appoint judges “who will impartially interpret the laws and administer justice.” Fair enough on the surface, but it has not gained momentum.

He thought Perdue changed a system that had been working just fine. Memo to the governor: HB 652 changed a system that had been working just fine.

McCrory, as the candidate for governor, tried to stay away from hard and fast promises. Those broken fuel future campaign opponents.

What he did tell North Carolinians, without a doubt, was “ethical and accountable” government would be in place under his administration. We like that, but it’s not the case with this new law.

The “ethical” commission whose power he eroded included a Court of Appeals judge, two Superior Court judges, two District Court judges, four attorneys appointed by the State Bar Council and four citizen members who are not judges or lawyers.

We expect the state Supreme Court justices handling discipline to be impartial and fair. Sadly for us, if they wrongly choose to help a fellow bench mate, Gov. McCrory has provided their cloak of secrecy. We’ll never know.