No recusals for Earls, Berger in Leandro case

August 23, 2022 at 11:09 a.m.

By Colin Campbell
NC Tribune

Neither Republican N.C. Supreme Court Justice Phil Berger Jr. nor Democratic Justice Anita Earls will be stepping aside as the high court hears the latest appeal in the Leandro education funding case next week.

Both justices had been asked to recuse themselves: Berger’s father is Senate leader Phil Berger, who is involved in the case. Earls served as an attorney for the plaintiffs in a previous Leandro issue years ago. 

In a nine-page response to the request, Earls argues that the previous instances where she represented parties in the Leandro case did not involve the same issues that are before the court this year. “In short, I have not served as a lawyer in the matter in controversy currently pending before this court,” she wrote.

Her most recent involvement was an amicus brief in 2013, which she says is “not the same as representing a party to a ‘matter in controversy.’”

Earls rejected the recusal request “because I am confident that I can rule on the issues presented in this case impartially, and because relevant ethical rules and precedents do not require my disqualification under these circumstances.”

Berger’s order rejecting the recusal is just one sentence long. “Pursuant to an administrative order entered by this Court on December 23, 2021, and having reviewed and considered precedent established by this Court, N.C.G.S. 1-72.2, N.C.G.S. 120-32.6, the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct, and the arguments of the parties, plaintiffs’ motion and suggestion of recusal is denied,” he wrote.