North Carolina’s GOP Leaders Push To Remove The Only Black Woman Supreme Court Judge For Speaking Up Against Racial Bias
Looks like freedom of speech isn’t a thing if you’re a Black woman. After Justice Anita Earls, the only Black woman on North Carolina’s Supreme Court, spoke out about racial bias existing in the courtroom, Republican legislators are trying to have her removed, Slate reports.
Earls spoke to Law 360 in June 2023 about the court’s lack of clerks of color and how her colleagues treated certain attorneys, including a Black woman, who argued before them.
Two months later, in August, GOP leaders and the Judicial Standards Commission are trying to take her seat, claiming the justice’s concerns may violate judicial ethics rules.
If the commission, which investigates complaints against judges, finds a violation, the state Supreme Court would have the upper hand in deciding whether to accept the recommended sanction.
The violation in question states that judges are to conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” In a letter to Earls, the commission argued that she can’t “suggest” another judge being biased unless she “knows this to be the case,” needing definitive proof.
Earls isn’t backing down. She filed a lawsuit on Aug. 29 against the commission, claiming the investigation is “chilling” her First Amendment right to free speech. She described her media comments as core political speech concerning important public policy questions regarding the justice system and administration of the courts.”
Several community leaders and organizations are defending the 2018 elected judge. Gathering at the state legislature house in Raleigh, a representative from the NC Black Alliance told ABC 11 this is only the beginning. “This is the beginning of a rallying cry for support for Justice Earls.” Emancipate NC Executive Director Dawn Blagrove says she knows this is just another hidden agenda. “What we know is that the (judicial complaint) process is being bastardized in an effort to silence Black and brown people,” Blagrove said.
Earls is one of two Democrats left on the Republican-filled high court.
This isn’t the first time Earls has been targeted. In March, she faced a separate investigation after a complaint alleged she disclosed confidential information about current court matters. The complaint was later dismissed.