Illegal actions have consequences — that’s the message the NAACP is sending to lawmakers in its response to an appeal of a court’s decision to throw out the voter ID and tax cap constitutional amendments.
A Wake County Superior Court judge ruled in February that the unconstitutionally constituted legislature did not have the authority to alter the state constitution when it proposed those two amendments. Lawmakers appealed the decision, and the NAACP, which raised the legal challenges, has asked for the state Supreme Court to step in, but in the mean time, litigation goes through the state Court of Appeals.
The plaintiff’s argument in its appellate response is that the legislative defendants forfeited their claim to popular sovereignty when they drew illegal maps that racially segregated voters and diminished the political voice of African Americans. They are represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
It states that Republicans, who had a supermajority in the legislature at the time the amendments were created, knew they obtained power illegally and was warned about it by a federal court, but still proceeded.
“Nevertheless, Defendants, without regard for the law or the people they serve, attempted to rewrite our state’s most foundational document,” the court document states.
The legislative defendants wrote in its appeal that the lower court that ruled in favor of the NAACP focused more on the ills it perceived from redistricting than it did the merits of the case.
“The trial court became the first known court in the country to void amendments passed by a majority of voters on the theory that state legislators were usurpers and lacked the ability to propose amendments to the people for a popular vote,” the initial appeal states.
The defendants contend that the trial court encroached on the legislative branch and violated the separation of powers, so the Court of Appeals should overturn its decision.
The NAACP response states that the defendants “rely on inapposite case law, alarmism, and misinterpretation of state law.”
Gov. Roy Cooper filed an amicus brief in the case agreeing with the NAACP’s position that lawmakers should not have been able to propose an alteration to the state constitution.
“The two constitutional amendments at issue here represent a dangerous effort to entrench one party’s political views within the solemn text of the North Carolina Constitution,” the amicus states.
He reiterates the NAACP’s point that the constitution establishes “[a]ll political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”
Several other amicus briefs were filed by other groups, including the North Carolina Professors of Constitutional Law and the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus.
Read several of the filings in full below.