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Supporters are rallying behind North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls after a Republican-controlled state ethics panel began investigating her for comments she made about the court’s lack of diversity.

Two weeks ago a staff attorney for the Judicial Standards Commission told Earls she was being investigated for comments she made about the state Supreme Court’s record related to racial diversity. In a media interview with Law 360, Justice Earls spoke about the court’s lack of diversity and its elimination of implicit bias training.

Earls is one of just two Black justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court, and she’s the only Black woman. The Judicial Standards Commissions investigates potential violations of the state’s judicial code.

north carolina supreme court
Members of the North Carolina Supreme Court from left to right: Chief Justice Paul Newby, Associate Justices Michael Morgan, Anita Earls, Trey Allen, Tamara Barringer, Richard Dietz and Philip Berger Jr. Justices Morgan and Earls, the only two Black justices, are also the only two Black justices. (

It has the power to issue a private caution letter to a judge. It also can recommend to the Supreme Court that a judge receive anything from a public reprimand to suspension or removal from office.

On Tuesday, Justice Earls made it clear she wasn’t going down without a fight. She filed a lawsuit against the Judicial Standards Commission “on matters of public concern,” the Associated Press reported. She’s asking a federal court to block the state commission’s investigation on the grounds that it violates her free speech rights.

Supporters of North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls call investigation foul play

In the lawsuit, Earls says the investigation has “led to a chilling of her First Amendment rights” and “interrupted her ability to do her work” as a justice. The investigation came after last year’s election, when the North Carolina Supreme Court went from a 4-3 Democratic seat majority to a 5-2 Republican seat majority.

Meanwhile, Justice Earls has supporters rallying behind her. Some see the investigation as an attempt to remove one of the two remaining Democrats for political purposes.

“What we know is that the (judicial complaint) process is being bastardized in an effort to silence Black and brown people. And in this case, particularly, Justice Earls,” executive director of Emancipate NC Dawn Blagrove told ABC 11.

Earls faced a previous investigation in March when she was accused of speaking publicly about private administrative matters with the court. The Judicial Standards Commission investigated ultimately dismissed that complaint.

The “series of months-long intrusive investigations” are part of an “ongoing campaign” to “stifle her free speech rights,” Earls said.

In a statement to the News & Observer, the commission’s director said the panel is “statutorily obligated” to investigate all alleged misconduct.

 “It doesn’t really matter who filed (the complaint). What really matters is why. And what we believe is that it was filed in an effort to remove Justice Earls, the sole Black woman on the North Carolina Supreme Court, from her seat,” Blagrove said.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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