Policy Watch: Double-bunked judges speak out on judicial redistricting plans
By Melissa Boughton
April 26, 2018
More than 100 judges with thousands of years of combined experience could be wiped from the North Carolina bench by a bail bond agent who has served less than a decade in the General Assembly, and no one really knows why.
Many judges learned of their potential unemployment on Twitter last summer when Rep. Justin Burr (a private bail bond agent by profession) unveiled his surprise judicial redistricting plan. They’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on ever since.
“It’s stressful because it’s created this cloud of anxiety since June about what are they going to do next. Do I have to move? What do I have to do?” said District Court Judge Robin Wicks Robinson, who serves New Hanover and Pender counties. “There is a powerlessness feeling and feeling of anxiety that overwhelms.”
She and four of her nine colleagues have been double-bunked (which for the purposes of this article means there are a smaller number of seats in a judicial district than there are current sitting judges) in almost every one of the nine judicial maps that have been introduced in the Republican-led legislature.
Why? If you ask Burr, he will repeat this mantra: “We’re cleaning up some lines from the past 50 years.” He may also throw in a line about population inequities in Mecklenburg County. But ask him for specifics, and you’ll likely hear nothing but crickets.
He refused to respond to specific questions from Policy Watch for this article after seven judges, including Robinson, spoke exclusively with this reporter about how his plans will impact both their jobs and the communities they serve.
“We’ve asked what was broke that needed to be fixed here – [this plan] seemed to impugn us; what is it about what we’re doing that needs reforming at this point?” Robinson asked. “I honestly don’t ever recall hearing any truly substantive response to that question.”
She’s not alone. Superior Court judges Carl Fox and Allen Baddour have also been double-bunked in most, if not all, of the judicial redistricting maps considered by the legislature without explanation.
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