NC Court of Appeals rejects ruling that previously struck two constitutional amendments

A divided NC Court of Appeals has reversed the ruling of a Wake County Superior Court judge, who ruled in February 2019 that an unconstitutionally constituted legislature did not have the authority to alter the state constitution when it proposed adding voter ID and tax cap amendments.

Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins found in his ruling last year that:

“…the constitutional amendments placed on the ballot on November 6, 2018 were approved by a General Assembly that did not represent the people of North Carolina….An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution.”

Judge Chris Dillon

On Tuesday, the NC Court of Appeals disagreed with Collins’s ruling.

Justice Chris Dillon writing for the majority:

“We conclude that the superior court erred in holding that our General Assembly lost its power granted by our state constitution, while retaining other powers, simply because a federal court had determined that the maps contained too many majority-minority districts, such that some members elected to that body were from districts that were illegally gerrymandered based on race. It is simply beyond our power to thwart the otherwise lawful exercise of constitutional power by our legislative branch to pass bills proposing amendments”.

Judge Reuben F. Young

That opinion was not unanimous. In a six-page dissent, Justice Reuben Young found:

“At issue is a narrow question, but one vital to our democracy: Can a legislature, which has been held to be unconstitutionally formed due to unlawful gerrymandering, act to amend the North Carolina Constitution?

The ramifications of such an act are clear. If an unlawfully-formed legislature could indeed amend the Constitution, it could do so to grant itself the veneer of legitimacy. It could seek, by offering amendments for public approval, to ratify and make lawful its own unlawful existence. Such an act would necessarily be abhorrent
to all principles of democracy.”

Young’s dissent assures that the plaintiffs will be able to pursue an appeal to the state Supreme Court should they so choose.

Read the full opinion in NC State Conf. of the Nat’l Ass’n for the Advancement of Colored People v. Moore

This is a developing story. Look for more reaction later today on the Progressive Pulse.

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