RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Republicans leading a North Carolina legislative committee examining potentially dramatic changes to the judiciary say they should have allowed a judge to speak on Gov. Roy Cooper's behalf at their last meeting.

Three senators leading the chamber's judicial reform panel made the reversal in a letter Thursday to Senate Democrats.

The presiding co-chairman declined to let retired Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens address the committee because he wasn't a Cooper administration official, like they had requested. Cooper had sent Stephens as his representative. The denial caused Democrats to walk out of the committee meeting.

The Republicans wrote that in retrospect they should have heard from Stephens. The letter was part of a back-and-forth with Democrats unhappy with deliberations over judicial redistricting and whether to replace head-to-head judicial elections.