Fair Courts Now! Kickoff

Pro-Choice North Carolina's Executive Director, Tara Romano, participated in this campaign kickoff. Led by North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, and joined by the ACLU-North Carolina, Advance North Carolina, the North Carolina Council of Churches, North Carolina NAACP-Apex Branch, and Progress North Carolina, this campaign calls for common sense reforms to our state judiciary to ensure a legal system that works for all North Carolinians, not just a powerful few.

Tara Romano's comments at the kick off press event are below. You can also watch a recording of the event. (note: this link takes you to another webpage).

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision on June 24, overturning Roe v Wade and ending the federal protections for abortion access, we were witnessing the result of a decades-long campaign by conservatives to capture the highest Court in the land and to entrench an unpopular, undemocratic, and dangerous ideology for generations. Established as a backstop and important check on legislative and executive branch overreach, the Judicial Branch is now in danger of becoming just another overly politicized tool that treats elections as games, and plays politics with people’s lives.

At the heart of every court case are real people, looking to solve problems and get justice and accountability where they believe it has been denied. While elected officials in the legislative and executive branches bring an ideological blueprint to their elected office, the most important attribute judges bring to the bench with them - whether elected or appointed - is their ability to be fair and impartial, and their core belief that everyone - no matter their income, status, gender, race, or political power - is to be treated equally under our laws.

In overturning Roe, we have seen anti-abortion state lawmakers across the country act quickly to either severly restrict or ban abortion. We’ve also seen judges across the country act to block bans from immediately taking effect - pointing to state laws, civil rights, and state constitutions to do so. As we saw with the recent reversal of North Carolina’s ban on abortion after the 20th week in pregnancy, we’ve also seen judges act in reactionary and unprecedented ways to deny people access to their rights, and to justice.

Who is on the bench matters. We’ve just ended a U.S. Supreme Court session in which six unelected, lifetime appointees have stripped away our rights and narrowed, rather than expanded, our expectations for a government by, of and for the people. But in North Carolina, we vote on our state judges. While politics always plays a role in our judiciary, voters can send a message that we expect judges to act in the interest of people, not political parties. 

In North Carolina, voters who believe in good governance, democracy, and equal rights have the opportunity to elect judicial candidates they believe share those values. While access to abortion remained largely unchanged in NC post-Dobbs, we don’t anticipate it will stay that way when the next legislative session begins in Janauary 2023. Just because a law can be passed doesn’t mean it should, nor does it mean the law respects precedence and the constitution. Whether its abortion rights, access to healthcare, voting rights, or civil rights, we have an opportunity as voters and as advocates to have judges on the bench, no matter their ideology, whose commitment is to the people of North Carolina, not special interests. 

As we saw during the nearly five decades that Roe was in place, reproductive rights and abortion access weren’t dependent on whether or not a judge had personal beliefs for or against abortion, but rather if the judges were guided by the rule of law, and the belief that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable to laws, fairly and equally applied. Entering into this critical election season and beyond, we know that bringing balance back to our courts will strengthen our democracy, and is a critical step to protecting our rights.

NOTE: The reforms needed include:

  • Do not force state judges to be partisan. Allow judges to run for election as independent.
  • Ban judges from partisan political activity  – like endorsing and fundraising for other candidates – when they are not on the ballot.
  • Establish clear ethics rules that would ban judges from hearing cases involving friends and family members. 

You can read more here and learn how you can take action here: https://faircourtsnc.com/take-action/.

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