North Carolina Supreme Court justice drops lawsuit against ethics body investigating her diversity comments
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita S. Earls had filed an August 2023 lawsuit contending that the investigations by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission chilled her right to free speech. (Photo from the North Carolina Judicial Branch website)
Judicial ethics regulators in North Carolina have dropped their investigation of a state supreme court justice who told a legal publication that her newly elected colleagues have an allegiance “to their ideology, not to the institution.”
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita S. Earls had filed an August 2023 lawsuit contending that the investigations by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission chilled her right to free speech.
Earls has now dropped her suit, report Law.com, Law360 and Reuters.
Earls said the investigation partly stemmed from an interview that she gave to Law360. In that interview, Earls had criticized elimination of an equity committee and implicit bias training, which happened after the state supreme court flipped from a Democratic to a Republican majority.
Earls also noted a lack of diversity among law clerks on the North Carolina Supreme Court in the interview. And she told the publication that her colleagues seem to be unfairly interrupting female lawyers during arguments and to be interrupting her more than male justices.
In November, U.S. District Judge William L. Osteen Jr. denied Earls’ request to block the investigation during the litigation.
Earls said in a statement published last week by Law.com, Reuters and Law360 she sees no need to continue her suit because the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission has dropped its complaint against her.
“I continue to believe that the First Amendment protects my ability to speak about matters of racial equity in the legal system,” Earls said in the statement.