This is a breaking news story and will be updated periodically.
The U.S. Supreme Court has granted North Carolina’s emergency request to halt this year’s special elections ordered by a lower court after legislative district maps were ruled racially gerrymandered.
The order granting the stay is contingent upon the state timely filing a statement as to jurisdiction, then it will remain in effect pending the Supreme Court’s action on the state’s appeal. The order does not indicate if the court plans to take up the case.
If the judgment should be affirmed, or the appeal dismissed, this stay shall expire automatically. In the event jurisdiction is noted or postponed, this order will remain in effect pending the sending down of the judgment of this Court.
The plaintiffs in the case filed a brief with the high court in opposition to the request, noting that those effected by the gerrymandered districts had waited long enough and that “justice delayed is justice denied.”
In North Carolina’s brief filed today, it states that there are multiple factors that make the “extraordinary remedy of a special election particularly inappropriate.”
The normal remedy for a Shaw violation is an order requiring the maps to be redrawn for the next regularly scheduled election. Such a remedy also has the incidental benefit of allowing this Court to exercise its appellate jurisdiction in an orderly fashion. The extraordinary special election remedy ordered by the district court, by contrast, has nothing to recommend it. It inflicts irreparable harm on all three branches of state government, it interferes with this Court’s review, it orders the legislature to draw maps that may be outmoded by the time the special elections are slated to occur, and it profoundly upsets federalism values and the reasonable expectations of voters. This extraordinary order calls out for a stay.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice released a statement following the Supreme Court’s Order. The organization, along with the Poyner Spruill law firm, represents the plaintiffs in the case.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision does not overturn the lower court’s finding on racial gerrymandering but puts the lower court’s remedy on hold while the state’s appeal proceeds.
Anita Earls, Executive Director of SCSJ, said the high court’s action puts everything on hold while Justices considers the appeal of whether the district court was correct to order special elections in 2017.
“On behalf of our clients, we continue to trust that the district court’s ruling will be upheld and new districts ultimately will be drawn that are not based on race.”
Thomas Farr, a Raleigh attorney representing North Carolina, said they have a policy not to talk to the media about pending litigation. Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger’s office has not responded to requests for comment.
Berger did tweet this after the order was released: “Grateful #SCOTUS has quashed judicial activism and rejected an attempt to nullify the votes of North Carolinians in the 2016 #NCGA elections”