by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
The will of the people and the credibility of North Carolina’s Supreme Court are hanging in the balance. In a piece published by the News & Observer, Locke President Donald Bryson sounds the alarm and urges prudence when it comes to what is a clearly political move by the NAACP. The group is seeking the forced removal of two Republican Supreme Court justices from deciding a key voter I.D. case. You’ll recall that North Carolina voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 to require an I.D. to vote. The NAACP targets are Justices Tamara Barringer and Phil Berger, Jr.
The NAACP’s argument to recuse Barringer is that she was a legislator during the session that passed these constitutional amendments. However, state history is replete with justices ruling on cases questioning the laws they voted for as legislators. Henry Frye, North Carolina’s first Black chief justice, served in the General Assembly for 13 years before serving 18 years on the court. The idea that he did not rule on laws for which he voted is impractical.
Further, the idea that justices like Frye were unable to “perform the duties of the judge’s office impartially and diligently,” according to the N.C. Code of Judicial Conduct, dismisses the faith voters placed in them. The argument to force Barringer to recuse herself is just as silly.
The NAACP’s argument to recuse Justice Phil Berger Jr. is that his father is the president pro tem of the N.C. Senate. Berger is listed as a defendant in the case — in his official capacity. That last detail is critical
Phil Berger Sr., the justice’s father, is not a defendant in the case. The state of North Carolina is the defendant and the named person is the leader of the state Senate. Justice Berger’s father is not on trial — the state is. Any argument that this is a case of a son judging his father is a gross misinterpretation.
To learn more, watch our discussion of this alarming scheme to use the courts to overturn voter I.D. in North Carolina.