Gov. Bev Perdue on Thursday reaffirmed that she intends to replace departing state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson, but she’ll do it without the independent nominating commission having a formal role in the choice.
Instead, she will discuss one or more potential candidates with individual members of the commission for their “informal buy-in,” she told reporters after an appearance at an event in RTP.
“I can’t imagine that the person I select will be anything but the finest jurist in North Carolina, or that anybody will have any problem with it,” Perdue said.
Perdue is getting around the process that she created by executive order last year by modifying the order, ostensibly in response to a letter from the commission’s chairman on Thursday suggesting she do just that. Chairman Edwin Speas Jr. – Perdue’s former general counsel – wrote that the commission’s role might be modified or suspended because there isn’t enough time left in her term to go through the normal process. Update: Her order creating the commission anticipated it would take about six weeks to make nominations, but it also allows her to shorten the time frame.
“If they don’t have the time to do their job well—and they’re telling me they don’t – then I’m going to make an appointment on paper, in my mind, and I’m going to pick up the phone and call them, and see if there is some deep-seated reason, or some legal reason that I don’t know about that the appointment would be inappropriate,” Perdue said. “ … It won’t require their signoff.”
Last year Republicans criticized Perdue for stacking the 18-member commission with Democrats. On Wednesday, they blasted her for circumventing the commission in order to make the appointment before Republican Gov.-elect Pat McCrory takes office next month.
The governor added that she thinks there will be “a couple” more judicial positions to fill before her term expires.
The commission is supposed to take several weeks to recruit qualified applicants for vacancies on the state Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and the superior courts. It is supposed to review applicants based on criteria it has developed. So far, it has made recommendations to fill three vacancies.
Update: Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has a problem with it. “If she has enough time to thoroughly vet an appointee, then she can prescribe the commission to do so during that time frame as well,” says a statement from Berger’s office in reaction to Speas’ letter.
"Her own executive order says she can prescribe the commission to act during a shorter period. It's not just our view -- it's her own view."