Under the Dome

Senate defeats effort to make judicial reprimands confidential

The N.C. Senate voted down a measure to keep the Judicial Standards Commission's reprimands of judges secret.

In a 13-21 vote, prominent Republicans joined Democrats in a rare move to defeat the bill because it reduced government transparency. Senate Bill 652 was later revived but sent to the Senate Rules Committee where it is expected to remain without further action this session.

Under the legislation, a commission reprimand of a judge would remain confidential unless the N.C. Supreme Court concurs and makes it public. Sen. Buck Newton, a Wilson Republican who sponsored the measure, said the reprimands are often filled with "false or twisted accusations."

But senators said the public needs to know when the commission that polices judges makes a finding that they've overstepped their bounds. "This weakens the right of the public to know what is happening with our judges," said Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a Chapel Hill Democrat.

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, the No. 2 Republican, voted against the bill, saying "it sounds like lawyers protecting lawyers."

The N.C. Press Association, which represents The News & Observer, also opposed the measure.

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