Just four days after the parties argued their cases before the state Supreme Court in the critically important dispute over control of the state and local elections boards, the justices handed Governor Roy Cooper a preliminary victory late Friday.
Cooper’s challenge to the legislature’s takeover of elections boards was dismissed by a three-judge panel in June based on the panel’s conclusion that they lacked “subject matter jurisdiction” in the case. Today, the Supreme Court sent the matter back to the panel and directed it to explain its previous reasoning and also to go ahead and address the merits of Cooper’s complaint. The order gives the panel 60 days to enter an order and then directs that the matter then be returned to the Supreme Court immediately thereafter.
The order was signed by the newest member of the court — Justice Mike Morgan, who was elected last November. Governor Cooper’s office issued the following brief statement in response to the ruling:
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has acted quickly so that the three judge panel now has the opportunity to get this right on the merits of the case.”
As was explained last week in the Weekly Briefing, the elections dispute between Cooper and legislative leaders is hugely important:
“Historically, the office of governor in North Carolina has not been as powerful as it is in many other states. North Carolina chief executives are term-limited, have no “line item veto” authority and, indeed, were the last in the country to obtain even limited veto authority.
In the event, however, that the Supreme Court were to somehow uphold the changes advanced by legislative Republicans, what amounts to a fairly weak office would quickly be transformed into an utterly toothless and ceremonial one. It would be just a matter of time before legislative leaders would quickly follow up on their actions to pass new laws further limiting the governor’s powers in any number of ways.
Let’s hope the Supreme Court doesn’t let it come to this. North Carolinians may wish to have a discussion about the relationship between the executive and legislative branches but if that’s the case, the proper vehicle is via thoroughly vetted constitutional amendments, not hasty and transparently partisan backroom power grabs.”