Ruling Stands: "Retention Elections," unconstitutional
The "retention election" law passed in 2015 -- overturned by a 3-judge panel as unconstitutional in Feb. 2016 -- will stay overturned because of a 3-3 tie today on the NC Supreme Court
Last February, a special three-judge panel ruled in Sabra Faires et al. v. State Board of Elections et al. that the Berger-Moore innovation called "retention elections" was and is unconstitutional. The "retention election" law (passed quietly in 2015 to go into effect in 2016) effectively applied to only one human being, sitting Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds (R), up for reelection in 2016, because the retention election law mandated that any Supreme Court justice (and only a Supreme Court justice, on which, see below) up for reelection in 2016 (which would be Edmunds alone) did not have to run competitively against a known opponent but was subject to a voter plebiscite instead -- voters would vote only on whether Edmunds should be retained -- "yes" or "no" -- not on him or his known opponent. Under the Berger-Moore law, if by some fluke voters in the majority said "no," then the governor would get to appoint Edmunds' successor. Nice touch, that!
Sabra Faires, a lawyer in Raleigh who also wanted to run for Edmunds' seat, cried foul and sued on constitutional grounds: "retention elections" fundamentally violated the meaning of "election" as a choice. A special three-judge panel in Wake County agreed with her.
The State Board of Elections naturally appealed ... to the NC Supreme Court. The Supreme Court took the case. Interesting, since the retention election law, if it stood legal challenge, would eventually apply to the longevity of every last one of those justices, a clear conflict of interest. Edmunds, of course, recused himself. The remaining six justices split along partisan lines, creating an unbreakable tie of 3-3, Republicans Mark Martin, Paul Newby, and Barbara Jackson on one side, Democrats Sam Ervin IV, Cheri Beasley, and Robin Hudson on the other.
There will be an election in November between Bob Edmunds and whoever comes out on top in the primary June 7th: Sabra Faires, Daniel Robertson, or Mike Morgan. Take a guess who I'm voting for.
Footnote: Why the Retention Law Applied to Supreme Court Justices Alone
Berger Family Values
The original draft of the retention election law included all appellate level judges, meaning both NC Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court judges. Written to include the appeals court, the law would have ruled out Phil Berger Junior's ability to challenge Linda Stephens. If she were "retained" under a new law, Junior Berger would be shit out of luck.
Phil Berger Senior, who runs Republican government in Raleigh, changed the law to apply only to the Supreme Court, and paved the way for his son.