December 8, 2023

People’s Parity Project Statement on the Fourth Circuit’s Ruling Allowing the Judicial Standards Commission to Continue its Sham Investigation Against Justice Anita Earls

Richmond, VA — Today, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals failed to protect the First Amendment rights of Justice Anita Earls, who is facing an ethics investigation for speaking out about discrimination and bias within the North Carolina Supreme Court. The court allowed the Judicial Standards Commission to continue its probe.

The ruling was issued by Judges Allison Rushing, a Donald Trump appointee,  and Paul Niemeyer, a George H.W. Bush appointee, and drew a dissent from Judge Robert King, a Bill Clinton appointee. Earls is likely to appeal the decision, and the case is expected to go to trial next year.

Billy Corriher, PPP’s state courts manager and a North Carolina resident, issued the following statement:

“Justice Earls is facing the possibility of losing her seat on the state Supreme Court—the seat that 1.8 million voters put her in—just because she spoke out about bias at the pinnacle of North Carolina’s justice system. Her alleged misconduct was publicly discussing the lack of racial diversity among her colleagues’ clerks and their treatment of certain advocates who argued before them. Judges have an ethical responsibility to  confront bias and discrimination within the judiciary. Justice Anita Earls did nothing wrong.

“Since Republicans replaced the leadership of the Judicial Standards Commission in 2021, civil rights advocates have feared the Commission would target Earls for a politicized investigation. It’s unfortunate that conservative judges on the Fourth Circuit couldn’t recognize this investigation for what it is: an attempt to silence the court’s only Black justice.”

People’s Parity Project is a movement of attorneys and law students organizing for a democratized legal system which values people over profits, builds the power of working people, and opposes subordination of any form. Together, we are dismantling a profession that upholds corporate power and building a legal system that is a force for justice and equity. Our work focuses on building power for working people in the civil legal system through organizing, policy innovation, political education, and solidarity. Learn more: