The judicial system in North Carolina would see plenty of changes if the proposed budget bill is passed.

Under the draft version of H. B. 259, the 2023 Appropriations Act, the retirement age for judges on the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals would be raised from 72 to 76. There is speculation by some that this is being done to help Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby, who is 68 years old but will be 73 by the end of his term. 

The legislature would also have some say regarding the Judicial Standards Commission, which investigates and disciplines judges. Under the bill, the State Bar Council’s four appointments to the commission would be transferred to the legislature. 

The commission has been the source of some controversy recently. State Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls filed a federal lawsuit against the commission on Aug. 29.

She alleges the group wants to “chill her right to speak on matters of public concern.”

The commission notified Earls on Aug. 15 that she is the subject of an investigation based on an interview published online in June.

Earls is seeking an injunction, along with a declaration that the commission’s investigation and possible punishment of her violates her constitutional right to free speech.

Another change would allow state Supreme Court justices and Court of Appeals judges to carry concealed weapons in court. State district and superior court judges already have that right.  

The legislation has drawn criticism from Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, on X (formerly Twitter). “Big Budget Provision!! Page 427 proposes to allow our Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeal Judges to carry concealed guns in court. Goodbye bailiffs and good luck to lawyers as justices twirl guns around their fingers during oral arguments.”

Another change to the court system would be eliminating the right to appeal to the NC Supreme Court if there’s a dissent at the Court of Appeals.

Speaker of the House Tim Moore- R-Cleveland, told reporters Tuesday that the draft budget bill could still change. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the final budget Wednesday. A separate bill including casinos and Medicaid expansion is also set to be voted on Wednesday.