In response to the recent dismissal of a complaint against NC Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls by the Judicial Standards Commission, the North Carolina Black Alliance and Emancipate NC hosted a press conference on Friday.
Demarcus Bass, Deputy Director of the NC Black Alliance, and Dawn Blagrove, the Executive Director of Emancipate NC, led the charge as they aimed to celebrate the people’s triumph in safeguarding judicial independence.
They sought out to address concerns about potential intimidation tactics targeting elected officials heading into the 2024 election. The gathering brought together state and local advocacy organizations in a united campaign to “Stop Legal Lynching”.
The complaint against Justice Earls, initiated due to her comments on the lack of diversity in the state judiciary, sparked controversy and months of scrutiny.
The Judicial Standards Committee’s decision to dismiss the complaint against Justice Earls, who advocates argued had spoken well within her rights on matters of racial equity in the legal system, marked a significant victory. The committee’s abrupt curtailment of its investigation came after Earls filed a federal lawsuit against them, asserting her First Amendment rights to free speech.
“The facts of the matter of the case are very true: When it comes to Justice Earls, you can talk about harassment and your experience in the court — you can talk about discrimination in the court,” Bass said.
The lawsuit, initiated in August, argued against the investigation into her comments about the court’s lack of diversity, implicit bias during oral arguments, and the discontinuance of racial equity and implicit bias training.
The press conference stressed the pivotal role played by the people in preserving judicial independence and preventing the return of Jim Crow-era tactics in North Carolina.
“What got us to this victory was the power of the people; using our collective voices to call out the unmitigated racism behind the attack on Justice Earls,” Blagrove said.
Deputy Director Bass addressed the broader context, expressing, “While this is a victory for Justice Earls, this is not a time to sit idly by and let the next elected official get attacked — somebody say, ‘not on our watch’.”
The sentiment was met with a chant of “Not on our Watch!” from the attendees.
The event stands as a testament to the power of community mobilization, and serves as a call to action in defending the principles of democracy and judicial integrity.
Executive Director Blagrove said, “It was not a win over the judicial system or laws: it was a win of, by, and for the people.”
“Whenever you feel discouraged or feel like your vote doesn’t matter, whenever you feel like your power isn’t enough; I want you to remember that today, Justice Anita Earls sits on the North Carolina Supreme Court as the only black woman because of our power,” Blagrove declared.
“When we work together and unify our power, we win,” Blagrove said.
In a statement, Justice Earls expressed gratitude for the support received from individuals and organizations, both in North Carolina and nationally.