Opinion: Daily Journal

Roy Cooper and the Disco

RALEIGH – When I was on the debate team at UNC-Chapel Hill, I learned an ingenious term for a common debating tactic – granting the premise of one opposing argument in order to disprove another conclusively.

The term of art for this was a “disco.” I presume this comes from the image of someone dancing to one side and then the other. Of course, it might also have something to do with the idea of contradiction, such as that between good music and, say, disco dancing.

In any event, Attorney Gen. Roy Cooper’s office, in attempting to defend the state and its leaders against different redistricting lawsuits, has left itself wide open to the John Travolta treatment by making contradictory arguments. There are two cases currently being adjudicated. One is a challenge to the General Assembly’s new congressional districts. It is currently pending in federal district court. The plaintiffs in this case wantthe Feds to overturn the new congressional map on federal statutory and constitutional grounds.

Cooper is arguing that the federal judiciary not intervene in the congressional redistricting process except to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which applies to 40 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. “The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly admonished the federal courts that, ‘reapportionment is primarily the duty and responsibility of the state through its legislature or other body [i.e. a state court], rather than of a federal court,'” the AG’s office argued to the federal district court.

Okay, except that in the other case – a state court proceeding on legislative districts in which plaintiffs are arguing that, in counties outside of the Voting Rights Act’s jurisdiction, state constitutional rules against splitting counties must be enforced – Cooper’s office is contradicting itself. It’s saying that in the legislative-district case, federal courts should interpret and guide the state’s redistricting rules and process, notwithstanding all that twaddle about the state’s duty to conduct its own redistricting.

Another contradiction arises on the issue of delaying candidate filings. In the federal case, Cooper says that there is no urgent need for federal intervention because the state legislature has shown in the past that it can respond to adverse rulings with new maps in a timely manner. But in the state case, Cooper says the opposite – that the federal courts should intervene to quash any possibility of an adverse state ruling, since the latter would cause “significant disruption of the state’s ongoing 2002 election process.”

Now the state-court plaintiffs are citing the contradiction and arguing that, essentially, the state is making their case about the proper role of federal government in redistricting. This is one reason, among many, why several Democrats and Republicans I know think that the state judiciary might just end up striking down the new legislative districts – or even redrawing the maps, as has happened in other states.

Roy Cooper, consider yourself discoed.