Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Federal judges ahead of today’s hearing: some questions for special master unnecessary, argumentative

Today’s hearing in the state’s ongoing racial gerrymandering case could bring some fireworks.

It’s the first and only chance plaintiffs and legislative defendants in North Carolina v. Covington have to question a special master appointed by the court in the case before it’s decided if his redrawn maps will remain for the 2018 legislative elections.

Parties to the case submitted their questions and requests ahead of the hearing for the court to review. On Wednesday, the court responded by throwing out a number of both the plaintiffs’ and legislative defendants’ questions and took them to task over the unnecessary and argumentative requests.

The plaintiffs submitted nine questions. The special master, Stanford Law Professor Nathaniel Persily, will only be permitted to answer four questions.

“The Court will not direct the Special Master to address Plaintiff’s Questions 1-4, as these questions contain an incorrect factual assumption and ask the Special Master to express an opinion beyond the issues he was appointed to address,” the court order states. “The Court will not direct the Special Master to address Plaintiff’s Question 9 as it is argumentative and unnecessary.”

The federal three-judge panel used similar language for legislative defendants’ requests.

“The Court will not direct the Special Master to address specifically Legislative Defendants’ Questions 1-4, as those questions as propounded are, in varying degrees, argumentative, unnecessary, unhelpful to the Court, distracting, and unproductive,” the order states.

The judges will allow Persily to address his compliance with the order regarding his communications and disclose monetary payments since 2011 from any groups listed with the work identified in one of the legislative defendants’ questions.

“Without approving the form of the questions and without requiring that the questions be answered one by one or in any specific order, the Court directs the Special Master to address the substance of Legislative Defendants’ Questions 5 and 7-42,” the order adds. “The Special Master need not produce any drafts or stat packs.”

The court also answered one of the legislative defendants’ questions in the order.

You can read all the questions and requests submitted here and compare it to the court’s most recent order here.

Each party will have an hour and a half to offer testimony and argument. It’s not known if the judges will rule from the bench, but if history proves, they will wait and take everything under advisement before making a decision.

The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse at 324 W Market St. in Greensboro. It is open to the public, but they will need a photo identification to get into the building. Electronics are not permitted in the courthouse.

NC Policy Watch will be at the hearing. Check back for updates.

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