Republican legislative defendants in a partisan gerrymandering case involving legislative election maps has asked for North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls to be recused from reviewing litigation on appeal.
A three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court already struck down the previous legislative maps because they unfairly advantaged Republicans, and they ordered lawmakers redraw them without using partisan data and in full public view.
The maps they subsequently enacted as part of the Common Cause v. Lewis remedial process were accepted by the court despite the plaintiffs’ objections to five House county groupings. The plaintiffs are now appealing the decision to accept those county groupings and have asked for expedited review from the state Supreme Court.
The legislative defendants and intervenors in the case — Republican voters — responded to that request and told the Supreme Court there was no need for discretionary review and no cause to expedite the case. The state defendants took no position on the merits of the appeal, but it did express a desire for the case to be resolved as soon as possible.
At the same time the legislative defendants objected to the Supreme Court reviewing the case, they also filed a motion to recuse Earls.
“One of the lead plaintiffs here, Common Cause, is a former co-litigant alongside a client of Justice Earls. Another, the North Carolina Democratic Party, is her principal campaign donor,” the motion states. “It, in fact, gave more than 40 times the amount of any other donor to her campaign. And the real party defendant is the Republican-controlled General Assembly, which has been adverse to Justice Earls in every redistricting dispute this decade predating her joining this Court.
“Justice Earls was not shy to criticize the General Assembly’s leadership in public statements. For example, before this case was filed, she stated both in court and in public speeches that the plans challenged in this case are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. Indeed, given the case history, it is likely that, Lawyer Earls laid the groundwork for this litigation.”
The motion goes on to state that ” the public would have an objective basis to view Justice Earls as a sure vote against the General Assembly and for Plaintiffs,” and that they too believe it because they waited to file their lawsuit until after her election.
The plaintiffs have not yet formally responded to the the motion.
The actual motion for recusal is 40 pages, but the entire document with exhibits is 542 pages. Exhibits include social media posts from Earls, underlying litigation and prior testimony from the Justice.
A major point for the request for Earls to be recused has to do with big donations to her campaign by the North Carolina Democratic Party.
“The appearance of a justice ruling in a case brought by a big-money political party donor demeans the integrity of the process and therefore is a case where the impartiality of Justice Earls may ‘reasonably be questioned,'” the document states.
It should be noted that there were similar efforts to have Republican Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby recused from a redistricting case because the biggest contributor to his most recent re-election campaign at the time was the Republican State Leadership Committee. Newby did not recuse himself.
Read the full motion to recuse Earls below.