Lawyers supporting and opposing North Carolina’s new election maps will take their arguments to the N.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 2.
The court has set that date for a virtual session of oral arguments. The arguments are tied to multiple legal challenges of the state’s new congressional and legislative election maps.
Critics of the election maps have one more week to prepare their legal arguments for the state’s highest court. As the appellants in the case, they must submit their briefs by Friday, Jan. 21. One week later, Jan. 28, is the due date for briefs from the maps’ Republican legislative defenders.
Any reply briefs must be submitted by the following Monday, Jan. 31.
A unanimous three-judge panel upheld North Carolina’s new election maps Tuesday. The panel of two Republican Superior Court judges and one Democratic colleague rejected critics’ arguments that mapmakers engaged in unconstitutional partisan and racial gerrymandering.
A 260-page order also granted the State Board of Elections’ request to resume candidate filing for 2022 elections on Feb. 24. Filing for all state and local offices will restart on that date and last through noon March 4.
“These consolidated cases present this Court with the unique challenge of balancing the competing interests of fairness, the role of the judiciary, statutory and constitutional construction, the interpretation of prior court rulings, and good old fashion common sense,” according to the opinion from Judges Graham Shirley and Nathaniel Poovey, both Republicans, and Dawn Layton, a Democrat.
“Sometimes, courts are required to make decisions that are not popular, but because judges take an oath to uphold the law, those rulings are mandated,” they added. “And sometimes, redress of a perceived wrong does not lie with the judiciary, but rather, with one of the other co-equal branches of government.”
“All of Plaintiffs’ claims in these lawsuits, in essence, stem from the basic argument that the 2021 redistricting maps passed by the North Carolina General Assembly are unconstitutional under the North Carolina Constitution,” the judges wrote. “We have taken great lengths to examine that document. At the end of the day, after carefully and fully conducting our analysis, it is clear that Plaintiffs’ claims must fail. Judges, just like many of the citizens they serve, do not always like the results they reach. That fact notwithstanding, judges have a solemn duty to uphold the law. We have done our best to perform that duty, regardless of the consequences.”
At this point, it appears all seven N.C. Supreme Court justices will take part in the case. Democrats hold a 4-3 majority among that group.
Separate motions have targeted three different judges for removal from the case: Democrats Anita Earls and Sam “Jimmy” Ervin IV and Republican Phil Berger Jr. A Dec. 23 state Supreme Court order ensures that each justice will decide for himself or herself whether to participate in the case.