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It took close to a year from the date of argument,  but as expected by many the state Supreme Court today handed down its decision upholding the 2011 redistricting plan.

The justices voted along party lines in the 4-2 opinion in Dickson v. Rucho, with Justice Robert Edmunds writing the opinion for the majority.

Justices Cheri Beasley and Robin Hudson joined in dissent, holding that the case should go back to the three-judge panel that initially decided the case.

Justice Robert Hunter did not participate in the case.

The high court had not handed down any written decisions since August — with 37 cases pending for a ruling as of yesterday — but today caught up a bit with 22 opinions.

In Dickson, the majority found that the General Assembly was justified in using race to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative voting districts after the 2010 census, to the extent necessary to avoid liability under the Voting Rights Act.  With respect to the 26 districts drawn for that purpose though, the state was obliged to narrowly tailor the redistricting. Read More

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Winston-Salem attorney Mike Robinson, who challenged sitting Justice Cheri Beasley for her seat on the state Supreme Court, has asked the state Board of Elections for a recount of the votes cast in that race, according to the board’s public information office, Josh Lawson.

The latest posted results from the SBOE show Beasley ahead by 5,427 votes — with 1,239,217 votes to Robinson’s 1,233,790.

State law allows a candidate in a statewide race to request a recount when the difference between the votes cast is one-half of one percent (0.5%) or 10,000, whichever is less.

In an email Lawson added:  “We’ll be working on guidance to the counties so that they can have the recount completed by canvass next Tuesday.”

The board is expected to issue a statement on the recount shortly.

 

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After more than 20 years on the state Supreme Court, Chief Justice Sarah Parker stepped down on Saturday, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 72 in August.

Her picture has already been removed from the court’s website, with one of the newly-appointed temporary chief, Justice Mark Martin, taking its place.

Her legacy drew praise from colleagues and contemporaries alike.

“Sarah is a quintessential professional,” former justice Bob Orr said in this post. “She has a sense of the history and tradition of the court as well as the system. She’s been a good chief justice in difficult times.”

Parker was mindful of those difficult times, especially near the end of her tenure, as the court itself became increasingly politicized and the state’s judicial system struggled under the weight of draconian budget cuts. She drew attention to both of those problems in her remarks to the state bar association this summer.

With her departure the court has just six justices serving — at least for this week.  Next week, Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter, Jr. will temporarily fill the spot vacated by Justice Martin.

Six is a tough number for parties awaiting a decision from the state’s highest court. If the justices are split three to three on an issue, then no decision follows. Rather, the decision of the court below stands.

And while the interim ascension of Judge Hunter will make seven, for all practical purposes nothing will change, as he’ll have to recuse himself from ruling in cases on which he sat in the Court of Appeals or in which he hasn’t participated while on the Supreme Court.

That includes the 15 or so cases argued this past year for which a decision is still pending.

And among those are some of the weightiest and most controversial issues facing the court this term: redistricting and the Racial Justice Act.

In those cases, with this composition on the court, it’s at least possible that with six, you get nothing.

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Kudos to Court of Appeals Judge Bob Hunter, Jr., who in recent remarks to the state bar association set some ground rules for his Supreme Court campaign.

Hunter is running against his colleague on the appeals court, Sam Ervin IV, for the seat being vacated by Justice Mark Martin, who’s running for Chief Justice.

In aftermath of a  primary race in which vicious attack ads were launched against sitting justice Robin Hudson, and following similar ads run against Ervin  in the 2012 election,  Hunter stressed the importance of fairness and civility in the process.

As Doug Clark at the News & Record recaps those remarks:

[Hunter and Ervin] have been colleagues for nearly six years, hearing many cases together. Hunter refers in the remarks, made to the North Carolina Bar Association, to Ervin as “my good friend.”

When he ran for the high court in 2012, Ervin was hit by negative ads financed by an independent political organization. Similar attack ads were run by the same group against Justice Robin Hudson in her primary campaign this spring. Ervin said he expects more of the same this fall. I fear he’s right.

In his turn at the podium, Hunter — a Greensboro native who practiced law for many years here — made a remarkable statement. While defending our system of electing judges and the freedom of speech that comes with campaigns, he said this:

“I will not tolerate any untruths about Jimmy Ervin in this campaign.”

Watch the full video here on the NCBA website.