On Friday, September 29, 2023, Spectacular Magazine reported that in a show of support for North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, the Advancement Project and the NAACP have rallied together to defend her against Republican attacks. Justice Earls, the only Black justice on the bench, is facing a litany of threats to her seat due to her outspoken criticism of racial and gender bias in the judicial system.
Carmen Daugherty, the Deputy Director of the Advancement Project, stressed the urgent need to protect Justice Earls’ seat, emphasizing her exceptional achievements in the realm of voting rights. Daugherty went as far as stating that Justice Earls may be the most accomplished voting rights justice in the entire country, whether at the federal or state level. NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson echoed these sentiments, denouncing the ongoing investigation into Justice Earls as an attempt to suppress a powerful Black woman who fearlessly speaks out against injustice.
Johnson further condemned the relentless assaults on Justice Earls, highlighting a troubling pattern aimed at undermining and discrediting elected Black women. He called upon the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission to take proactive measures to enhance diversity within the judiciary, addressing the pressing issues raised by Justice Earls regarding racial bias and the glaring underrepresentation within the state’s court system.
A coalition consisting of the NAACP, the Advancement Project, and leaders from 14 other civil rights organizations have united in support of Justice Earls. In a joint effort, they have implored the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission to cease its investigation into Justice Earls and instead prioritize addressing the concerns she has raised. These concerns include the lack of diversity and implicit bias within the North Carolina judicial system, mistreatment of Black women within the legal profession by fellow judges and lawyers, and recent rollbacks on court diversity efforts under Chief Justice Paul Newby.
Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of the Advancement Project, emphasized Justice Earls’ extensive experience in fighting against racial and gender bias, which she brings to the bench. Dianis defended Justice Earls’ right to call out bias and stressed the ethical obligation to ensure the fair administration of justice in North Carolina.
The coalition argued that Justice Earls is being subjected to an unjustified investigation for shedding light on crucial issues. They highlighted her position as the seventh African-American judge in the history of the North Carolina Supreme Court and the ninth woman to serve on the state’s highest court, underscoring her significant role in the state’s legal landscape.
The coalition further pointed out that similar efforts to investigate and silence Black female leaders are emerging nationwide. They cited the suspension of Florida State Attorney Monique Worrell and the investigation of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia as examples.
With the support of prominent civil rights organizations such as The Black Voters Matter Fund, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the National Urban League, the coalition stands united in their unwavering support for Justice Earls. They have warned that targeting and silencing the only Black female judge on the state’s supreme court would erode public trust in the North Carolina justice system.
The actions of Chief Justice Paul Newby have also raised concerns within the coalition. Disbanding a committee established to review racial and gender bias in the court’s hiring practices and refusing to appoint members to the Supreme Court’s Commission on Fairness and Equity, Chief Justice Newby’s decisions seem to undermine efforts to eliminate disparate treatment within the North Carolina judicial system.
On August 29, 2023, Earls filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission. She is seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, alleging that the Commission’s investigation into her comments about the state’s judicial system violates her First Amendment rights. Earls argued that her comments, which addressed racial and gender disparities in the court system, are protected as core political speech under the First Amendment. She also cited the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct, which permits judges to speak about the legal system and administration of justice.
Source: Spectacular Magazine