North Carolina may end Courts Commission, shift “oversight” over judiciary directly to legislature

For two years, the North Carolina legislature has attempted to kill off its Courts Commission, but the latest version gives the legislature directly broad news powers over the courts.

The commission presently is made of 28 members: 7 appointed by the Governor, 7 appointed by the Chief Justice, and 14 legislators. In place since the 1970s, the commission has but one task:

It shall be the duty of the Commission to make continuing studies of the structure, organization, jurisdiction, procedures and personnel of the Judicial Department and of the General Court of Justice and to make recommendations to the General Assembly for such changes therein as will facilitate the administration of justice.

SB 851 of 2012, entitled the Boards & Commissions Efficiency Act of 2012, would have simply repealed  the authorizing legislation for the Commission.

The latest move comes in the form of HB 820 of 2013, the “Judicial Reform Act.” The bill revises numerous laws, for example it allows the Governor to select anyone to fill interim vacancies in District Courts (currently must selection from list given by local bar).

The bill also kills off the courts commission and transfers it to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety to oversee courts. That committee has absolutely no members of the judiciary or executive appointees for that matter, consisting instead of 11 House and 11 Senate members.

HB 820 was approved by the House Government Committee on May 9.