Republicans could retake NC Supreme Court

RALEIGH, N.C. — The counting of votes continues in the race for governor in North Carolina, and the result could affect more than just who lives in the governor’s mansion in Raleigh.

Rumors are swirling about a special session of the Legislature in Raleigh to take up hurricane relief, but that session could also offer Republican leaders a way to retake control of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

On election night, the victory of Democrat Mike Morgan in the race for a seat on the Supreme Court gave Democrats a 4-3 advantage on the court, but the North Carolina Constitution says legislators can vote to expand the court and add two more associate justices.

Even if the final tally of votes in the gubernatorial race leaves incumbent Pat McCrory the loser, he could tip the scales back by appointing Republicans to fill the new seats before he leaves office.

This could be a risky move for legislators and the governor, political expert Eric Heberlig said.

“There is a political risk,” Heberlig said. “It’ll be seen for the obvious political move it is, which is to overturn the result of the (Supreme Court) election.”

For that reason, Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte said he doesn’t like the idea at all.

"That's one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard of.
I mean, we've got to quit doing stupid party politics when people are going in or going out of office," Tarte said.

North Carolina’s Supreme Court has considered many cases that affect people all across the state, including voter ID, redistricting and coal ash.

State House Speaker Tim Moore said there is talk about legislators coming back into session in December to deal with hurricane relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

He said no decisions have been made about whether other topics, including the Supreme Court, will be discussed.

Article IV, Section 6 of the N.C. Constitution  discussed how the state supreme court is made up.

Sec. 6. Supreme Court.

(1) Membership. The Supreme Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices, but the General Assembly may increase the number of Associate Justices to not more than eight. In the event the Chief Justice is unable, on account of absence or temporary incapacity, to perform any of the duties placed upon him, the senior Associate Justice available may discharge those duties.

(2) Sessions of the Supreme Court. The sessions of the Supreme Court shall be held in the City of Raleigh unless otherwise provided by the General Assembly.