Burley B. Mitchell and Henry P. Van Hoy II: Legislators undermine the rule of law | Columnists

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Sen. Berger’s testimony leads to separation of powers and humiliates Lee.

Since our establishment, our state constitution has imposed the solemn duty of an independent judiciary to declare the law in every pending case, including whether or not an act of the executive or legislative branch violates the constitution. The judiciary is accountable to the rule of law and not to the legislature or executive. Once the judiciary has established the rule of law for the case, the legislature and executive have an accompanying duty to ensure that the rule of law is fully implemented. This principle is fundamental to our democracy.

The fact that the legislature believes it can ignore constitutional obligations without judicial scrutiny should worry all citizens deeply. Equally worrying is that some lawmakers demean a judge who acts in accordance with the law, thereby undermining the independence and authority of the judiciary.

Article I, Section 35 of the NC Constitution provides: “Frequent repetition of basic principles is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of freedom.” Basic principles include the doctrines of separation of powers, judicial review, and the fairness of an independent judiciary and impartially administered rule of law.

We, the people, must insist that our elected officials and the judiciary abide by and honor these principles. We, the people, must defend these principles against all attacks, including the last line of defense of our democracy – the judiciary.

Burley B. Mitchell is a past chairman of the North Carolina Supreme Court in Raleigh. Henry P. Van Hoy II is a practicing lawyer in Mocksville.


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