Think North Carolina’s voting maps are settled? Think again. Attorneys for Republican lawmakers went before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals today and argued to have the Common Cause v. Lewis case moved from state court to federal court — even though it’s already been decided in state court, and the State Board of Elections has prepared for the elections under the newly-drawn maps.
The Common Cause case was filed in November 2018 and challenged partisan gerrymandering in legislative districts as a violation of the North Carolina Constitution. Republican legislative defendants already tried once, unsuccessfully, to move the case to federal court. The case before the 4th Circuit in Richmond today is the appeal of that effort.
A three-judge panel from Wake County Superior Court ruled unanimously in September that the districts were illegally gerrymandered for partisan gain, violating the State Constitution, and they ordered new districts be drawn. The newly-drawn state House and Senate districts were adopted shortly after for the 2020 election, and primary election voting is now underway.
The 4th Circuit three-judge panel presiding over the appellate case is Judge Roger Gregory, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz — both appointed by former President Bill Clinton — and Judge Julius Richardson, a President Donald Trump appointee.
Oral arguments from the case have not yet been posted, but will be available on the 4th Circuit website within one day.
“It’s baffling why the legislative leadership is wasting taxpayer money on this appeal,” said Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause. “The Supreme Court told us gerrymander challenges are best handled at the state court. So we did that and won. [It’s] time for leadership to stop spending tax dollars on frivolous challenges and work with all of us for reform.”
The three-judge panel that presided over the case in state court ordered the legislative defendants last week to pay the plaintiffs $102,343.89 in the Common Cause case. More than $69,000 of that will be paid to the Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer law firm for deposition costs and expert witness fees and the remaining more than $33,000 will be paid to court-appointed referee Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford Law professor.
The costs will be paid with tax dollars and don’t include the cost of the legislative defendants’ attorneys.