The most recent N.C. Supreme Court order in a case involving challenged election maps takes up 3 1/2 pages. Almost half of that text consists of the list of lawyers taking part in the case in some way.
Carolina Journal has identified more than 60 attorneys who have played some role so far in legal proceedings tied to the latest round of N.C. redistricting.
At least 28 lawyers from six different law firms and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice represent the three sets of plaintiffs in the consolidated redistricting cases. Courts have joined together for one set of proceedings two separate lawsuits targeting N.C. election maps. One suit lists the N.C. League of Conservation Voters as its lead plaintiff. The other lists an individual voter named Rebecca Harper. Left-of-center advocacy group Common Cause is also intervening in the case as a third plaintiff.
On the other side of the case, 10 attorneys from two law firms show up in court filings on behalf of legislative defendants supporting the maps. The N.C. Department of Justice also has four lawyers representing the state in its role as a defendant.
Three other Justice Department lawyers are tied to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by their boss, Attorney General Josh Stein, along with Gov. Roy Cooper. Thirteen more lawyers are linked to four other friend-of-the-court filings. All five of those briefs oppose the election maps.
Four more attorneys are listed in court documents because of one specific issue: the request from N.C. sheriffs, district attorneys, and Superior Court clerks to reopen candidate filing.
Only a handful of these lawyers will take part in Wednesday’s vitual oral arguments before the Supreme Court. The court has agreed to extend its normal 60-minute argument session to 90 minutes. The three plaintiffs will get half that time, with the other half going to legislative and state defendants.
At stake is the future of maps dictating election districts for North Carolina’s state House and Senate races, along with 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
A unanimous bipartisan three-judge Superior Court panel upheld the maps on Jan. 11. Now the Supreme Court, with its 4-3 Democratic majority, will decide whether to affirm or reverse that decision.
Republican lawmakers drew the maps. Only Republicans voted to support them in the legislature. Critics contend GOP legislative leaders drew the maps with “extreme” partisan bias that violates the state constitution.
Candidate filing for all N.C. elections is set to resume Feb. 24. An earlier N.C. Supreme Court ruling had shut down candidate filing in early December while justices dictated a process for the courts to resolve the redistricting dispute.
Primary elections are slated for May 17. (Candidate filing could be bumped back to March 24, with the primary moved to June 7, if House Bill 605 becomes law.)
Once state Supreme Court justices hear oral arguments Wednesday, there is no deadline for a decision about the maps.