Multiple media outlets are reporting that the General Assembly is considering a statutory change that would increase the size of the Supreme Court of North Carolina to nine justices, from its current size of seven.
You might be surprised to learn that the North Carolina Constitution has long given the legislature this power:
The Supreme Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and six Associate Justices, but the General Assembly may increase the number of Associate Justices to not more than eight.
N.C. Const. art IV, § 6(1).
Presumably, the new seats would be filled by appointment, with elections to then be held in 2018. Aside from the political implications, the potential change would raise a number of interesting questions. Would the increased size correspond to an increase in the grant rate of petitions for discretionary review? Would the change be permanent, or could the Court be reduced back to its current size in the future? And, on a more mundane level, is there room in the courthouse for two additional chambers?
We’ll keep you posted.