Impartial Anita Returns: After Serving as Plaintiffs’ Lawyer in Leandro, Justice Earls to Hear Appeal of Her Own Case

Earls refuses to recuse herself from a case where she previously served as an attorney for one of the plaintiffs

Sen. Galey: “Justice Earls has no business hearing this case before the Supreme Court”

Raleigh, N.C. — Years before North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls took her seat on the bench, she represented the families from Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools as they intervened in the longstanding Leandro court case.

North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct rule 3(c)(1)(b) requires a judge to disqualify herself when she previously participated in the case as a lawyer. However, Earls refused to recuse herself from the case, despite her clear conflict of interest. Earls previously recused herself from hearing a case she participated in as an attorney.

Her decision not to recuse herself came mere hours after she all but threw out millions of legitimate votes in a partisan ploy to deny North Carolinians their constitutional right to voter ID. Now she’s on the precipice of completely nuking the separation of powers by siding with the same party she previously represented.

Her tepid defense for refusing to recuse herself? “…[T]he past proceeding is not relevant to the current issues…”

Earls also signed an amicus brief in the case that reads largely like a rough draft for how the justices could rule in the case. But, according to Earls, normal ethics rules don’t apply to her because she previously worked as a “civil rights attorney.” Earls is apparently the judge of which type of attorney is subject to ethics rules.

Earls has a laundry list of ongoing conflicts, but none as stark as this one. She’s considering a case she was actively involved in.

Since she joined the bench, she’s had a say on several matters related to Leandro, including motions to speed up the case and to bypass the Court of Appeals. Now, she’s set to cast the deciding vote in the case as it’s argued before the state Supreme Court.

“Justice Earls has no business hearing this case before the Supreme Court,” Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) said. “It wasn’t enough for her to tell North Carolinians their votes don’t matter if the result doesn’t line up with her political preferences. Now, she thinks it’s OK for a lawyer who participated in a case to serve as an appellate judge providing ‘impartial review’ of the same case. Justice Earls cannot rule fairly and impartially, and her previous involvement shows exactly that.”

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