Statement on NC Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls

Aug 30, 2023 | News, Political Effectiveness, Statements

North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice, Anita Earls, filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Judicial Commission and members of the NC Judicial Standards Commission for reopening an investigation that the Commission previously dismissed. Justice Earls is under attack for speaking about diversity, or the lack thereof, in the NC Supreme Court. Of the seven-judge panel, there are currently two African-American justices and two women. The Code of Judicial Conduct permits Justice Earls to engage in activities “concerning the legal…or governmental system.” She was initially investigated in May of 2023, but the investigation was dismissed as Justice Earls violated no rule. The investigation is now being reopened to silence Justice Earls in speaking out about racism in the justice system.

In September 2021, the NAACP called for the recusal of two Justices from their case on voter ID requirements. Associate Justice Phil Berger, Jr. was asked to recuse himself because he is the son of the NC Senate Leader, Phil Berger, Sr., a defendant in the case. There was no recusal and no NC Judicial Standards Commission sanction. Former Senator, Tamara Barringer, was also asked to recuse herself as she voted for a Voter ID amendment while in office. There was no recusal and no NC Judicial Standards Commission sanction.

In April of 2022, NC Chief Justice Paul Newby endorsed conservative Trey Allen for NC Supreme Court Justice despite being prohibited to do so as a sitting judge. Chief Justice Newby stated via Twitter, “I have known Trey Allen for almost 20 years. Trey is a man of integrity and honor… he is a brilliant [sic] constitutional conservative. His broad legal experience and recognized constitutional scholarship qualify him to serve on the Supreme Court. I would be honored to serve with him.” There was no NC Judicial Standards Commission sanction for his actions.

There is one distinct difference in the treatment of Justice Anita Earls and that of her counterparts, she is a black woman, and they are not. NC Republicans have engaged in collusion between branches in an effort to maintain full and complete power with no checks and balances. There is a duality in the justice system, which has now reached our state’s highest court. If no action is taken, a handful of white conservative men will lead our entire state. The Republican-led legislature seeks to remove powers from the Governor, leading to the end of our democracy as we know it. Our judiciary seeks to use its alliances with members of the legislature to consolidate power and ice out the executive branch.

In 2016, a Republican-led legislature voted to require judicial candidates to run for office with their political affiliation listed on the ballot. Now, Republican leaders are seeking to silence the very voices of the politicians they created. We have seen this play out in Washington, DC, with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and refusing to hold a vote on open seats for Supreme Court Justices. We have seen it with the removal of Tennessee House Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson for speaking out against gun violence when their white counterpart was permitted to remain in office.

There is an agenda, and Black and brown voices are not on it. Their stories are stifled with Critical Race Theory legislation and fear-based tactics to remove them from our history. The NC Black Alliance stands in solidarity with Justice Anita Earls to publicly speak on her experiences of racism and sexism without retribution from her white colleagues.

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