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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Cooper criticizes NC Chamber over judge selections

Gov. Roy Cooper blamed the failure of the General Assembly to confirm Black nominees for judgeships on the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, which he says is often consulted by state legislators on such decisions.

“It has been the experience of my office that the Chamber has not supported the nomination of several Black nominees to judicial and quasi-judicial roles, despite repeated requests to do so,” wrote Cooper in a letter Friday to Chamber CEO Gary Salamido.

“I strongly urge you to work with your staff and members to consider the Chamber’s impact, intentional or not, in making North Carolina less representative than the people it serves,” added Cooper.

Cooper said six consecutive Black nominees to the Board of Review in 2021 and 2022 failed to be confirmed and that it was “difficult, if not impossible,” to get an explanation from legislators or the Chamber.

A Chamber spokeswoman provided the following statement:

To receive this letter from the media, prior to receiving it from Governor Cooper’s office directly, tells us everything we need to know about its intentions. The accusations made against the NC Chamber are meritless and beneath the dignity of his office. We will respond to Governor Cooper directly and make our response available publicly.

In the letter, Cooper cited the current nomination of Jocelyn Mitnaul Mallette to serve on the N.C. Business Court. Mitnaul Mallette is currently a partner at McGuireWoods LLP. Previously, she served as a prosecutor and special assistant U.S. attorney for the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.

There are no minorities serving on the N.C. Business Court. The state population is more than 30% non-white and 22% Black.

“Appointments to the Business Court are a priority of the Chamber, and legislators and staff have repeatedly referred to the Chamber’s refusal to endorse my qualified nominees as legislators’ motivation for not taking action,” wrote Cooper in the letter.

For the Business Court, the Industrial Commission and the Board of Review, the General Assembly has confirmed only five out of 14 Black nominees, or 36%, from Cooper, but have approved 12 out of 14 white nominees, or 86%.

“An organization that is designed to help our economy and North Carolina business should be strongly supporting the speedy confirmation of qualified Black nominees to positions of leadership in our state,” wrote Cooper.

Chris Roush
Chris Roush
Chris Roush is executive editor of Business North Carolina. He can be reached at croush@businessnc.com.

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