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Dems Walk Out Of Committee Meeting On Legislative Districts

North Carolina General Assembly

Democrats at the state legislature in Raleigh walked out of a committee meeting Wednesday that was looking at potential changes to judicial election districts and judge selection. The walkout happened after the Republican committee leader, Sen. Dan Bishop of Mecklenburg County, would not allow testimony from a retired judge that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper sent to speak on his behalf.

The Senate panel had asked for a representative of Cooper's administration to attend the meeting to offer the governor's perspective on proposals being discussed. Cooper sent recently retired Wake County Superior Court Judge Don Stephens.

But Bishop said Stephens couldn't speak because he wasn't part of the administration.

All the Democratic members left the committee room after some lodged their objections to Bishop's decision, saying other perspectives should be heard. Stephens is a critic of recent legislative actions. He said outside the room that he sees no reason for altering how judges are selected. 

Democrats Sue Over Judicial Redistricting

Meanwhile, state Democrats have gone to court to try to prevent enforcement of a Republican-passed state law that eliminates primaries for judicial elections next spring.  The state Democratic Party and several county parties sued GOP legislative leaders Tuesday at federal court in Greensboro. They want the court to declare the law unconstitutional before candidate filing for non-judicial races begin in February.  

The suit argues that canceling the 2018 primaries for trial and appellate court judgeships violates the fundamental rights of parties to select their candidates. GOP lawmakers said this fall the judicial primary cancellation would give them more time to study planned changes to judicial election districts early next year. 

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