Here are some excerpts from his prepared statement:
It is my opinion that the quality and integrity of the trial bench [in North Carolina] is above reproach. I have found no evidence to the contrary. None. I have heard no sworn testimony or information presented to this body or any other legislative committee that challenges or impugns the quality or the integrity of the [North Carolina] trial judiciary.
I understand that the fire trucks are here, but where is the fire? Who saw the fire? Who declared that the judicial house was on fire? You are drawing up plans to rebuild our judicial house that is not on fire and has no structural damage. Where is any evidence that the quality and integrity of this state’s judiciary is so poor that the constitution of [North Carolina] must be immediately drastically changed? Who has declared the emergency? On what basis?
Oh, there's an emergency all right. But it's one of Republicans' making. They're engaged in an all-out war on the judiciary, from the NC Supreme Court all the way down to the District and Superior Courts. And as for Republican judges who are already sitting, when one of their own (Doug McCullough) resigned from his CoA seat early so Governor Cooper could name his replacement instead of the Legislature, well. That just pissed them off to the point they decided to burn the whole damn thing down. Judge Stephens continues, and hat-tip to NC Policy Watch for (once again) providing truth to power:
Who made the arbitrary decision to stop judicial primaries so Republicans will be denied the opportunity to pick their best judicial candidate and Democrates will have no opportunity to pick their best judicial candidate to run against each other in the general election? All other candidates for non-judicial office in 2018 have the right to a primary.
Why were judges singled out in this way? Are judges somehow being punished for something?
The last judicial race in North Carolina in which there was no primary before the general election occurred in 2014. In that election to fill a vacancy created on the Court of Appeals after the primary was over when a judge unexpectedly retired, 19 candidates filed. The winner gained that office by obtaining 23 percent of the vote.
In such a general election without a primary with 19 candidates to choose from there is no way voters can make informed choices about who would be the best judge. The selection by the voter is more akin to a blind draw, if the voter bothers to vote at all. It is a lottery in which all participants have an equal chance of winning without regard to which candidate is the best qualified. That is no way to pick judges.
Go, read the whole thing. And remember this: If GOP leaders were so confident they could keep their fellow Republicans on the Committee in line, they would not need to stifle voices like Judge Stephens. Not allowing him to speak may have had more to do with fear than arrogance, which very often happens when you go too far.