Critics of North Carolina’s latest voter ID law want the N.C. Supreme Court to consider their lawsuit. They have filed paperwork asking the high court to bypass the N.C. Court of Appeals.
At the same time, the critics are calling on Republican Justice Tamara Barringer not to take part in the decision.
In legal terms, the Supreme Court would need to certify the case called Holmes v. Moore for discretionary review to remove it from the Appeals Court.
“[T]he subject matter of this case raises issues of significant public interest, the case involves legal principles of major significance to the law of the State, and the delay in final adjudication that is likely to result from failure to certify will cause substantial harm to Petitioners and other eligible voters across North Carolina, election officials, and legislators,” according to the court filing from Jeffrey Loperfido of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. The coalition represents voter plaintiffs challenging the voter ID law.
“The facts and the law have been fully developed and carefully analyzed,” Loperfido wrote. “Additional review in the Court of Appeals will result only in further — and detrimental — delay.”
Holmes v. Moore sits now in the Appeals Court. Legislative defendants in the case are appealing a three-judge panel’s September 2021 decision to throw out the voter ID law approved in December 2018. Superior Court judges split 2-1, in that case. Both judges who ruled against voter ID were Democrats. A Republican judge would have upheld the voter ID law.
Republicans hold a 10-5 majority among Appeals Court judges, while the state Supreme Court has a 4-3 Democratic majority.
That majority could jump temporarily to 4-2 under a separate motion Loperfido filed in Holmes v. Moore. It calls for the disqualification of Justice Tamara Barringer from the case.
“Justice Barringer’s impartiality may reasonably be questioned for several reasons,” the motion argued. “As a North Carolina Senator, Justice Barringer actively participated in the events at issue in this case; voted, repeatedly, in favor of a law that Petitioners proved was enacted with unconstitutionally discriminatory intent; witnessed firsthand many of the relevant events that were the subject of proof at trial; and has personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts, including relevant facts outside of the record, concerning the legislative process that led to the enactment of the law in question in this case.”
Under a Dec. 23 state Supreme Court order, decisions about participation in particular cases remain with each individual justice. Barringer announced in a Jan. 7 court order that her prior legislative service would not stop her from taking part in a different case dealing with legislation she considered.
That case, N.C. NAACP v. Moore, already sits with the state Supreme Court. The case challenges a 2018 state constitutional amendment guaranteeing voter ID. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Feb. 14. Carolina Journal has documented controversy associated with that case at ExtremeInjustice.com.
Holmes v. Moore is also distinct from Berger v. N.C. Conference of NAACP, a case at the U.S. Supreme Court. In that dispute, state legislative leaders are asking the nation’s highest court to allow them to take part in a federal lawsuit challenging the same 2018 voter ID law. A federal trial originally scheduled for this month has been pushed back until after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.
There is no timeline for the state Supreme Court’s ruling on taking up Holmes v. Moore. In the meantime, voter ID supporters and opponents continue preparations for that case to be heard in the Appeals Court.