“If justice and fairness are to prevail, the integrity of the court’s justices and the proceedings cannot be influenced by money or even have the appearance of being sold to the highest bidder. Whenever this possibility arises, we must call on the court to examine itself, and if necessary, recuse any justice or judge whose ability to rule fairly has been tempted or tampered with.” With those words, Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the NC NAACP, called upon NC Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby to remove himself from being involved in the lawsuit challenging the redistricting plans adopted by Republican legislators. Democracy North Carolina, the League of Women Voters of NC, and the NC Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute are plaintiffs in that lawsuit with the NC NAACP. Together with other plaintiffs, we filed a motion today asking the NC Supreme Court to recuse Justice Newby from deliberations, including an aspect of the case that’s before the Court at this very moment (seeking documents from the publicly paid attorneys for the Republican mapmakers).
The problem is not Justice Newby’s character or personal politics. The problem is the enormous amount of money that the leading organization behind the redistricting plans spent to have Newby re-elected this November. Without the millions spent on a blitz of TV ads promoting his name (remember the banjo picker), Newby would likely have lost. To demonstrate his independence from that organization (the Republican State Leadership Committee), he should step aside. In a similar case before the US Supreme Court involving a coal company owner’s spending to elect a West Virginia Supreme Court justice, the US Supremes said the justice should recuse himself from hearing the mine owner’s legal case in order to protect the constitutional due process of the plaintiffs and the independence of the judicial system. In previous redistricting cases in North Carolina, state Supreme Court Justices Bob Orr and Mark Martin recused themselves because of potential or real conflicts that might cause suspicion of their independence.
The facts and law in this case are very strong: Read the full motion filed today - see the money details on pages 12 and 13 of the motion; a chart showing the parallels to the West Virginia Caperton case are on pages 30 to 32.