North Carolina GOP again asks Supreme Court to intervene
By GARY D. ROBERTSON
Jan. 25, 2018
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to halt a second lower-court redistricting order that went against them recently, this one involving challenges to state House and Senate districts they approved last summer.
Lawyers for the GOP lawmakers filed their formal request for the court to block a three-judge panel's decision that accepted alterations to two dozen legislative districts made at their request by a court-appointed expert. The judges directed the changes be incorporated into boundaries that didn't need to be fixed and the amended maps be used in this year's elections, beginning with candidate filing that starts Feb. 12. Primaries are in May.
Last week, the Supreme Court agreed to block an order by another three-judge panel that determined the state's congressional map was coated in over-the-top partisan bias that favored Republican candidates. The justices stopped the judges' demand that new lines be approved by Wednesday.
"This is a case of deja vu all over again," Washington-based attorney Paul Clement wrote in the brief for the GOP lawmakers in seeking a stay, referring to a quote attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra.
In the legislative maps case, the judges agreed the legislature had approved four districts that remained too similar to those struck down in 2011 because of racial bias. So the judges changed them again. Another five House districts were unlawfully changed by the General Assembly last August, according to their order, violating the state constitution's provision against mid-decade redistricting. The judges asked a special master to redraw these and surrounding districts to address their concerns.
Writing in their emergency application for a delay, the GOP's lawyers criticized the latest three-judge panel's opinion, especially its decision that racial gerrymandering remained even though the General Assembly didn't use racial data in fashioning their maps last summer. Clement called the conclusion "incoherent and unprecedented."
"While the congressional maps were invalidated based on a novel theory of partisan gerrymandering, the state maps have run afoul of an equally novel theory of non-racial racial gerrymandering," Clement wrote in the brief to Chief Justice John Roberts, who receives appeals from North Carolina.
Clement said the panel's ruling is likely to be reversed. Consequently, he said, the case should be delayed on appeal or acted upon once a similar Texas case that the Supreme Court already agreed to hear is resolved.
Roberts could ask the voters who successfully challenged the boundaries to respond to Wednesday's request. In a separate filing Tuesday in Greensboro federal court, the voters' lawyers asked the panel not to grant the GOP's request similar to the one filed at the Supreme Court for the judges to delay enforcement of their own ruling.
The plaintiffs said they are the ones who are likely to win under any appeal, and that North Carolina voters deserve to finally have elections under lawful maps. Based on court decisions, their lawyers wrote, General Assembly elections have been held under unlawful boundaries in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
"The slight administrative inconvenience of implementing a handful of new districts in time for the opening of the filing period — but nearly five months before the regularly scheduled primary election — cannot justify subjecting North Carolinians to yet another election under unconstitutional maps," attorneys Eddie Speas and Allison Riggs wrote Tuesday to the panel.