Unhinged Judge Contemplates Ordering All Public Schools Closed Until Legislature Passes His Preferred Budget Plan
Judge Lee upon hearing about a judge in Kansas ordering all schools closed: “You’ve got me interested now”
Berger: “This is yet another example of why the founders were right to place power to create law and spend money with the legislature, not an unaccountable and unelected trial judge”
Judge Lee also suggests, incorrectly and without legal basis, that the General Assembly has always been part of the Leandro case
Raleigh, N.C. — Union County Judge David Lee today contemplated ordering all of the state’s public schools closed if legislators don’t fully adopt a multi-billion education budget plan developed by out-of-state consultants.
Lawyers explained to Judge Lee during a court hearing today that a court in Kansas ordered all public schools closed over a similar policy debate.
Judge Lee responded to that information with great interest, saying, “Let me ask you a couple of other questions, because you’ve interested me, you’ve got me interested now in what’s happening in these other states. How long did it take the legislature in Kansas to decide to do something after they closed all the schools?”
Keeping his attention focused on the idea of closing every single public school in the state until the legislature adopts his preferred budget, Judge Lee continued: “I take it the judge out there just closed all the schools in the state? I bet it didn’t take too long for somebody to act on that, did it? Maybe the weekend?”
Recognizing the danger of Judge Lee’s recklessness, lawyers in the courtroom quickly spoke up to rein in his musings on a statewide school closure.
It’s not clear who funded the proposed multi-billion budget plan that Judge Lee wishes to enact into law, even though he lacks any authority to do so.
The state’s elected legislators were not involved in the plan’s development. A group of California-based consultants put the plan together. They did not hold legislative hearings or public debates among elected officials. Yet a county-level trial judge wishes to, on his own, enact the entire plan and force the state’s residents to fund it.
Judge Lee is a county-level trial judge who hasn’t been elected since 2010. Judge Lee’s former judicial district comprises just one of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “This is yet another example of why the founders were right to divide power among the branches of government, giving power to create law and spend money with the legislature, not an unaccountable and unelected trial judge. Judge Lee makes a mockery of our constitutional order with every additional hearing.”
On the question of who decides how to spend state dollars, the Constitution is clear: the legislature, and only the legislature. The state Supreme Court reaffirmed this fact as recently as 2020: “In light of this constitutional provision, ‘[t]he power of the purse is the exclusive prerogative of the General Assembly,’ with the origin of the appropriations clause dating back to the time that the original state constitution was ratified in 1776.”
Judge Lee also appears to have suggested that the legislature has always been a party to this case. That is clearly not true, as the out-of-state consultants excluded the legislature from their closed-door process in developing their multi-billion dollar spending proposal.