Courts & the Law, News

Covington plaintiffs: Court should make sure remedial districts comply with state, federal law

A federal three-judge panel on Thursday will hear final arguments as to whether they should enact remedial State House and Senate maps proposed and passed by GOP lawmakers.

The maps are supposed to correct unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that were found in 28 of the voting districts, but the plaintiffs in North Carolina v. Covington allege that there are still some federal and state constitutional violations.

The plaintiffs filed Tuesday a summary of their court argument asking the panel not to implement a remedial redistricting plan that violates state or federal law. Legislative defendants have argued that the court does not have to consider whether redistricting plans fully comply with the state constitution — an argument the plaintiffs say would “turn redistricting law on its head.”

The plaintiffs acknowledge in the brief that there is no precedent for the panel to consider whether the remedy is consistent with all applicable state and federal requirements but state it creates a catch-22 that safeguards voting districts from review.

“Courts reviewing a proposed remedial redistricting plan seek to carry out their responsibility to only order  into effect redistricting plans that are legal. To hold otherwise, namely that a new lawsuit must be filed to adjudicate the new violations in a remedial plan, opens the door to endless and ultimately fruitless litigation to try to obtain constitutional election districts. Moreover, should this Court approve the use of districts that otherwise violate applicable state or federal constitutional provisions, that approval will be used by the state as a bar to prevent any further challenges to the districts. If approved by this Court, the state will claim, correctly, that they are under a federal court order to use the 2016 legislative districts. Such a catch-22 insulates the districts from review and permits the defendants to violate the law with impunity at the remedial stage, but it hardly constitutes justice and it certainly is not what the law requires.”

You can read the plaintiffs full argument here.

The hearing Thursday starts at 10 a.m. at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, located at 324 W Market Street in Greensboro. Members of the public who wish to attend the hearing must present a photo identification to get in. Electronics are not permitted in the courtroom.

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