The Womble Bond Dickinson team of Press Millen, Ray Bennett and Sam Hartzell is representing North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls in a federal lawsuit against the state Judicial Standards Commission.

Justice Earls made public comments about the lack of diversity in the state’s judiciary. For example, she noted a recent study that found 90 percent of the attorneys arguing before the N.C. Supreme Court are white and 70 percent are men which does not reflect either North Carolina’s population or its bar membership figures. 

Since speaking out, she said she has been the subject of “a series of months-long intrusive investigations" by the Judicial Standards Commission and threatened with a variety of punishments.

In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Justice Earls says the First Amendment “stifling or even chilling free speech, especially core political speech from an elected justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.” She also disputes that she violated any Commission rules, noting that her comments did not reference any particular judges or specific cases. 

Justice Earls seeks declaratory judgment preventing the commission from reopening the investigation.

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