Nate Raymond, Reuters, November 22, 2023
A federal judge has rejected North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls’ bid to block a state judicial ethics commission from investigating her over comments she made about the lack of diversity in the state’s courts.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen in Greensboro on Tuesday rejected Earls’ request for a preliminary injunction that she said was necessary to prevent the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission from chilling her free speech.
The commission began its probe after Earls, one of two Democrats and the only Black woman on the seven-member state high court, spoke to a legal news organization about her court’s recent record on issues concerning diversity.
Earls spoke to Law360 in a June article about “implicit biases” among her colleagues, a lack of Black law clerks being hired and how the court’s new conservative majority had disbanded a commission tasked with examining racial and gender inequality in the judicial system.
The 16-member Judicial Standards Commission notified Earls in August that it was examining whether her comments may have violated the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct by alleging her colleagues were “acting out of racial, gender, and/or political bias in some of their decision-making.”
The panel is examining whether her actions violated Canon 2A of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires a judge to conduct herself “at all times in a manner which promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”