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Today: Judges will hear arguments in NC Board of Education v. NC, DPI Superintendent

Were North Carolina lawmakers acting constitutionally when they transferred power from the State Board of Education to newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson?

A three judge panel will hear arguments on both sides starting at 10 a.m. today in the courtroom of the state Court of Appeals on Morgan Street.

The State Board of Education sued North Carolina just before the New Year over legislators’ action transferring power from the Board to Johnson, a recently elected Republican. House Bill 17 was passed during a special session in December. It later added Johnson to the suit.

In its lawsuit, the Board points to Article IX, Section 5 of the North Carolina Constitution, which expressly confers certain “powers and duties” on the Board.

Those constitutional powers and duties include supervising the free public school system; administering the free public school system; supervising the educational funds provided for the free public school system’s support; and administering the educational funds provided for the free public school system’s support.

When lawmakers passed HB17, it was the first time in the Board’s 148-year history legislators attempted to transfer those powers and duties to a single individual.

North Carolina asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit because it has sovereign immunity, or is exempt from legal action. You can read the state’s full response to the lawsuit here.

Johnson also asked the court to dismiss the case, claiming in his response that he is a constitutional officer and that the Board failed to meet the burden of proving the challenged provisions of HB17 unconstitutional. You can read his full response here.

You can see all the documents filed in NC State Board of Education v. The State of North Carolina and Mark Johnson here.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin appointed the following judges to preside over the case: Judge Forrest Donald Bridges, who is registered to vote as a Democrat and presides in Cleveland and Lincoln counties; Judge James F. Ammons Jr., a former Democrat now registered as unaffiliated who presides in Cumberland County; and Judge Martin B. McGee, a Republican who presides in Cabarrus County.

Because of HB17’s conflict with the Constitution, experts have said that the State Board of Education’s argument is strong and they expect the Board to prevail.

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