The Senate on Wednesday tentatively approved the bill that would give Republican legislators and the GOP governor the power to remove all members of several key boards and commissions and replace them with their own choices.
Republicans agreed to take another day for the final vote.
The approval along party lines came despite warnings from Democrats that the bill could be unconstitutional because the General Assembly is not allowed to remove individual judges from office. Republicans said it's OK to eliminate the positions of 12 special superior court judges, who often travel around the state to hear cases.
The GOP lawmakers said they've heard those judges don't have much of a workload. They also want judges to be elected from local districts and not appointed to serve statewide.
Here's a look at who those judges are, thanks to The N&O's Andy Curliss:
These judges are all indeed special — they were not elected, but were all appointed by past governors. Some were first appointed by one governor, and then continued under a subsequent governor with a reappointment.
As special judges, they could be assigned to any Superior Court case across the state. They would hold regular court, help with special hearings, step in to help other judges avoid conflicts, and otherwise were assigned to alleviate backlogs or cover for absences.
They are paid $125,875 a year with another $62,372 in benefits and travel allowance.
And four of the 12 were made judges in the final hours of the terms of former Democratic governors Mike Easley and Bev Perdue.
Easley appointed Shannon Joseph, who is the daughter-in-law of former Senate majority leader Tony Rand and was an administrative law judge, and Bill Pittman, who was in private practice, on his last day in office. They were sworn in at 11 p.m. by a judge who was on his way to Perdue's inaugural ball in 2009.
Perdue left office on Jan. 5 this year, but did not take substantial action after Dec. 31.
That was the day that Perdue appointed as special judges both her secretary of the Department of Public Safety, Reuben Young, and Kendra Hill, who was her chief ethics officer and deputy counsel. Young had previously been a close adviser to Easley. Neither had judicial experience.
Of the other eight, one is overseeing a case now involving Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell Jr. That judge's term expires later this month, though the judges typically remain in place until a successor is picked or they are reappointed.
Hartsell rose on the Senate floor Wednesday and raised concerns about the judge cutting, saying he thought it was in violation of the state Constitution. He did not mention that a special judge was handling his ongoing case. Others said he was not reading the Constitution correctly.
Another of the special judges is overseeing a lawsuit brought by former District Attorney Tracey Cline against The News & Observer.
Here is the full list of judges on the block, according to the state courts system:
1. Reuben Young (Wake County), appointed Dec. 31, 2012. Term expires Dec. 31, 2017.
2. Kendra Hill (Wake County), appointed Dec. 31, 2012. Term expires Dec. 31, 2017.
3. Lane Williamson (Mecklenburg County), appointed Feb. 24, 2011. Term expires Jan. 9, 2013. He is continuing to serve until a new judge is appointed to this slot, officials said.
4. Sharon Barrett (Buncombe County), appointed Feb. 10, 2011. Term expires May 14, 2013.
5. Lucy Inman (Wake County), appointed April 30, 2010. Term expires April 29, 2015.
6. Andrew Robinson Hassell (Guilford County), appointed March 31, 2009. Term expires Jan. 26, 2016.
7. Shannon Joseph (Wake County), appointed Jan. 9, 2009. Term expires Jan. 8, 2014.
8. Bill Pittman (Wake County), appointed Jan. 9, 2009. Term expires Jan. 8, 2014.
9. Jack Hooks (Columbus County), appointed Jan. 9, 2003. Term expires Feb. 7, 2013.
10. Jack Jenkins (Carteret County), appointed Jan. 26, 2001. Term expires Jan. 26, 2016.
11. Gary Trawick (Pender County), appointed April 1, 1999. Term expires Oct. 20, 2015.
12. Richard Doughton (Alleghany County), appointed Aug. 22, 1997. Term expires Feb. 24, 2013.
(This version is updated from the original post.)