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Threat against court erodes checks, balances

Constitutional Amendments-1

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, left, and House majority leader Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, pause during the opening of a special session at the General Assembly on July 24 to set wording for proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot in November.)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

How far is too far in North Carolina politics?

It takes a lot, but regrettably we now know. It came last week when Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state Republican Party, suggested legislators could impeach judges or justices who decide to remove any proposed constitutional amendments from the ballot this fall.

There is common agreement that ballot language of several amendments is misleading and even purposely deceitful — particularly those dealing with diminishing the authority of the executive and judicial branches of government and increasing the powers of the legislature to enforce the law and control the courts.

North Carolina law requires that ballots truthfully reflect what voters are being asked to approve or reject. The governor’s office and state Board of Elections have asked the courts to determine whether the ballot language for the amendments meets that standard and are legal.

Amid the opening court hearings, Woodhouse offered up a less than thinly veiled threat: If the state judges or Supreme Court justices don’t rule the GOP way, they’ll be impeached.

“I suggested that there would be an equal and opposite reaction that occur with voters and their elected representatives, that could include many things: censure, further attempts to clarify the role of the courts through constitutional amendments, changes in what courts can hear what cases, and yes impeachment,” Woodhouse reiterated in a Facebook post.

How low can anyone stoop in North Carolina politics? Woodhouse showed us. Neither Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, nor House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, has unequivocally denounced the threat. Berger’s office used it as an opportunity to rail against “activist judges.” Moore’s public relations aide simply said “House leaders have had no discussions” about it.

More to the point, Berger and Moore must assure North Carolinians they:

■ Respect the rule of law

■ Believe in the impartiality of the courts

■ Refuse to meddle in the judicial process so courts are free to make determinations based on the law, NOT on partisan pressure or, worse, political blackmail

Have things become so extreme that we have to wonder if judges and justices are still able to rule on the law without intimidation and threats of impeachment and removal from office?

Enough is enough.

It is time the state’s GOP leaders publically disavow Woodhouse’s taunts and apologize for the intemperate and inappropriate remarks that mock the foundations of American democracy.

Robin Hayes, the state’s Republican chairman and Woodhouse’s boss, should discipline, better yet fire Woodhouse, for his damaging threats. They have no place in North Carolina politics.

Failure to do any less is affirmation of the GOP legislative majority’s true motives: End checks and balances in state government; Neuter the executive branch of government and; Make a mockery of impartial courts.

This whole sorry mess would have been avoided if the majority in the state legislature had faith in the voters that elected them to discern truthfully presented ballot proposals rather than looking to hoodwink them.

Legislators who refuse to deal honestly with voters, like those who voted for these proposed amendments, don’t deserve re-election.

November can’t come soon enough.

Capital Broadcasting Company of Raleigh

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