Senators refuse to release public comments, but poll shows strong disapproval of judicial attacks

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As lawmakers return for special session, a wide majority of voters disapproves of legislative attempts to rig the court system for partisan gain

RALEIGH -- A week ago, Progress NC submitted an open records request to the Senate Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting for the public comments collected by the committee regarding their plan to gerrymander state legislative districts -- one of a number of proposals that would further politicize North Carolina’s state courts.

These judicial issues will be a major topic of the upcoming special session, which is why it’s critical for these comments be made public before the session begins on Wednesday so lawmakers cannot simply ignore them like they have done in the past. However, lawmakers have refused to release the comments and are ignoring the open records request in potential violation of state law.

But while the so-called “public comments” remain under lock and key, Progress NC is officially releasing the results of a poll showing strong disapproval of lawmakers’ attempts to rig North Carolina’s court system for partisan gain.

[Click here to view the full poll on judicial issues, including crosstabs]

The Public Policy Polling survey found that an astounding 75% of voters -- including 68% of independents -- oppose the proposal to eliminate judicial elections and let politicians select judges instead of voters. 59% oppose last year’s law canceling judicial primaries, and 55% oppose the proposed constitutional amendment shortening all judicial terms to two years.

The General Assembly’s judicial gerrymandering proposal also saw majority disapproval from voters, with 52% (including a 49% plurality of independents) opposing that legislation.

“Given these poll results, it makes sense that lawmakers are afraid to release the public comments on their plan to rig the court system for political gain,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC. “North Carolina voters have made it clear that these partisan attacks on judicial independence won’t be tolerated, but lawmakers have made it equally clear that they couldn’t care less what average voters have to say.”

That’s why hundreds of people are gathering at the General Assembly on Wednesday for a Fair Courts Day of Action to show lawmakers that voters are watching.

“Even if lawmakers don’t have the votes to go through with their attacks on the courts during this week’s special session, we’ll come back to the General Assembly as many times as we have to until lawmakers start listening to voters instead of partisan special interests,” added Brenner. “We’ll be watching, and we’ll be ready to hold lawmakers accountable.”

Progress NC’s open records request regarding the public comments is attached below. For more information, contact Logan Smith at 919-259-4772.

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Progress North Carolina
P.O. Box 41306
Raleigh, NC 27629

January 3, 2018

Paul Coble, Legislative Services Officer
Dan Bishop, committee co-chair
Warren Daniel, committee co-chair
Bill Rabon, committee co-chair

Dear sirs:

Under the North Carolina Public Records Law, G.S. §132-1., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of all public comments received by the Senate Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting and Reform as requested on the committee’s website

As the comments were received electronically, I would like to request a waiver of any fees related to gathering or transmitting these records since the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the legislation being considered by the committee. This information is not being sought for commercial purposes.

As you know, the law requires that you respond to and fulfill this request "as promptly as possible." Since the judicial redistricting plan will likely be discussed during the January 10th special session, I ask that you fulfill this request before that date. If you expect a delay in responding to and fulfilling this request, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records.

If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.

Thank you for considering my request.

Sincerely,

Logan Smith

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