On Thursday, January 18, 2024, ABC11 EyewitnessNews reported that North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls had dropped her lawsuit against the state’s Judicial Standards Commission.
Justice Earls had filed a federal lawsuit against the commission last year after it notified her that it was reopening an investigation into comments she had made in an interview with the legal news website Law360. In the interview, Earls discussed issues of racial and gender equity in the state court system. She expressed concerns about a lack of diversity among judicial clerks and said she felt implicit bias may have impacted some cases she presided over.
The commission claimed Earls’ comments in the interview could have violated rules requiring judges to maintain impartiality and integrity. However, Earls argued in her lawsuit that the investigation threatened her free speech rights and interfered with her judicial duties. Both a federal trial court judge and appeals court had declined to stop the investigation while the lawsuit proceeded.
last week though, Earls’ attorney announced that the lawsuit was being dropped as the investigation had now been dismissed by the commission without any disciplinary actions recommended. According to the report, the commission notified Earls that the original complaint against her stemming from the Law360 interview had been dismissed.
Earls, who was elected to the state Supreme Court in 2018 and is the only Black justice currently serving, stated that she still believes the First Amendment protects a judge’s ability to speak about issues of racial equity in the legal system. However, with the complaint resolved and no longer facing potential discipline from the court, she no longer saw a need to continue pursuing legal action against the commission.
Source: ABC11 EyewitnessNews