Associate Justice Anita Earls Photo: NC Supreme Court.

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire 

The Advancement Project and the NAACP have rallied behind North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls, the lone Black justice on the bench, as she faces a litany of Republican attacks threatening her seat on the state’s highest court.

“We are closely monitoring what is happening,” Carmen Daugherty, the Deputy Director of Advancement Project, emphasized on the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Let It Be Known Morning show. Daugherty said Earls might be the most deeply accomplished voting rights justice in the entire United States, whether federal or state.  “We need her expertise very badly at this time,” she stressed, underlining the urgency of retaining Earls’ invaluable contributions,” declared NAACP President & CEO Derrick Johnson.

“The investigation into Justice Earls is a clear attempt to stifle a powerful Black woman who fearlessly speaks out against injustice,” stated Johnson, who staunchly affirmed the NAACP’s unwavering backing of Justice Earls, lauding her relentless pursuit of civil rights on both state and national fronts. Johnson also decried the assaults on Justice Earls as part of a broader pattern aimed at undermining and discrediting elected Black women, urging the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission to take proactive measures to enhance diversity within the judiciary.

A coalition comprising the NAACP, Advancement Project, and leaders from 14 other civil rights organizations implored the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission to cease its investigation into Justice Earls. Instead, they urged the Commission to redirect its energies towards addressing the pressing issues highlighted by Earls concerning racial bias and the glaring underrepresentation within the state’s court system.

“Justice Earls comes to the bench with decades of experience fighting against the very thing that is permeating throughout the bench—the miscarriage of justice due to racism and sexism,” added Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of the Advancement Project. “Yet she is being attacked for calling out racial and gender bias in a judicial system that we all know should and must be fully impartial.”

Added Browne-Dianis: “No other group is more scrutinized, targeted, and attacked than the Black woman, especially those in power. Justice Earls has a right under the First Amendment and an ethical obligation to call out bias in the judicial system to guarantee the fair administration of justice in North Carolina.”

The coalition asserted that Justice Earls is being subjected to an improper investigation for criticizing:

  • the Court’s lack of diversity and implicit bias within the North Carolina judicial system;
  • the manner in which fellow judges and lawyers mistreat her and other Black women within the legal profession and
  • the recent rollbacks on court diversity efforts under Chief Justice Paul Newby.

Justice Earls occupies a significant position in the state’s legal landscape as only the seventh African American judge in the history of the North Carolina Supreme Court and the ninth woman to serve on the North Carolina State Supreme Court. In a disturbing trend, the coalition pointed out that similar efforts to investigate and silence Black female leaders are emerging nationwide, as evidenced by the suspension of Florida State Attorney Monique Worrell and the investigation of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Georgia.

In addition to the NAACP and Advancement Project, a coalition of prominent civil rights organizations stands united in support of Justice Earls. 

“By targeting and silencing the only Black female judge on the state’s supreme court, the Judicial Standards Commision would perpetuate the very harm Justice Earls described, eroding public trust in the North Carolina justice system in the process,” the coalition wrote in a letter. “This is compounded by actions taken by the new Chief Justice, Paul Newby. Since taking the post, Chief Justice Newby has disbanded a committee established to review racial and gender bias in the court’s hiring practices and refused to appoint members to the Supreme Court’s Commission on Fairness and Equity, created in 2020, which was tasked with recommending plans to ultimately eliminate disparate treatment, impacts, and outcomes in the North Carolina judicial system.”

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