Source: Associated Press
Recent orders by the newly Republican-controlled state Supreme Court highlight the influence of partisan politics seeping into the state’s courts.
The North Carolina Supreme Court, which flipped to a Republican majority in November’s elections, announced that it would rehear a redistricting case and a voter ID case.
Last year, the state Supreme Court struck down a voter ID law as racially discriminatory and redistricting maps as unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.
The Republican-led state legislature lost both cases when they were previously before the state’s highest court which had a four-member Democratic majority on the seven-member Supreme Court.
According to the Associated Press, Common Cause, an advocacy group that sued over gerrymandered redistricting lines, “told state Supreme Court justices that previous rulings that blocked legislative and congressional district maps as illegal partisan gerrymanders should be left intact.”
“Their petition is nothing more than a cynical attack on judicial independence, our state’s Constitution, and North Carolinians’ long-held freedoms,” stated Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina.
Despite criticism from legal experts and groups, the state Supreme Court, and just two months after the original ruling, the Republican majority high court will rehear the cases in mid-March for oral arguments.
The AP reported that the two Democratic justices, “lamented the orders and said they stood against more than 200 years of court history, in which rehearings have been exceedingly rare.”
The dissent to the latest orders filed by the two justices noted that the court had agreed to rehearings in only two of 214 requests filed since January 1993, The New York Times reported.
According to the justices, the rare move to rehear the cases is happening due to the court’s partisan makeup, in which two new Republican justices won seats on the court that were previously held by Democrats.
“The legal issues are the same; the evidence is the same; and the controlling law is the same,” wrote Associate Justice Anita Earls in the dissent of the latest order. “The only thing that has changed is the political composition of the Court.”
Gov. Roy Cooper expressed concerns that the new Republican-majority court “would give in to all the demands of the Republican legislature regardless of the constitution, precedent or judicial independence” were justified, The Durham-Herald reported.
Cooper continued, stating, “For this Court to reopen rulings just weeks after they were decided is unprecedented and appalling and indicates that these justices reject the idea of an independent judiciary and swear allegiance to the whims of the Republican legislative leadership.”