Friday, September 1, 2023

A tell of two courts: A clear double standard for Jurists

North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls could be ousted from her seat for judicial ethics violations, reported Slate. Did she fail to disclose gifts from a billionaire benefactor on whose cases she was ruling? No. Maybe she’d gone on luxury vacations across the globe paid for by some of the richest men in the country and neglected to mention them on disclosure forms? Nope. Perhaps one of these billionaires bought her mom a house? Not that either. 

Her true crime: Earls, the only Black woman on North Carolina’s high court, spoke out about racial bias in her courtroom. Her alleged misconduct was speaking to the media about how few clerks of color the court employed and how her colleagues treated certain attorneys, including a Black woman, who argued before them. For that, a Republican-stacked judicial “ethics” commission has gone after her. Its targeting of Earls could fulfill the wishes of the gerrymandered Republican Legislature by removing a tireless advocate of racial equality.

 Earls, who was elected with 1.8 million votes in 2018 and is a frequent dissenter to the right-wing majority’s decisions, was responding to a study of advocates who argued at the high court. This study found that 90 percent of the lawyers were white and nearly 70 percent were male. Asked for her response, Earls noted the lack of racial diversity among the court’s clerks and her colleagues’ disparate treatment of certain advocates at oral argument. She went out of her way to say she didn’t think that this was the result of conscious bias, but “we all have implicit biases.” Earls also criticized decisions by Chief Justice Paul Newby, a Republican, to end implicit bias training and disband commissions looking into racial justice issues.

The Judicial Standards Commission, which has been reshaped by GOP judges in recent years, is now alleging that Earls’ concerns about bias in the courtroom may violate judicial ethics rules. The commission investigates complaints against judges, and its investigation could result in discipline for Earls or even her removal from office. If the commission finds a violation, the state Supreme Court would ultimately decide whether to accept its recommended sanction.

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