NCNAACP Argued Legislature Court Ruling was Illegal
By CASH MICHAELS
It was last February when Wake Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins delivered perhaps one of the most shocking rulings in recent state history:
“An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” he ruled when he threw out the 2018 ratified voter ID, and cap on state income tax amendments that had been passed in the 2018 midterm elections.
The ruling was music to the ears of plaintiffs, the NCNAACP, which had sued to stop the amendments. The civil rights organization had effectively argued North Carolina’s 2017 legislative maps were illegal because they had been drawn by an unconstitutional racially gerrymandered NC legislature, which did not have the authority, the NCNAACP said, to place the amendments on the ballot.
In effect, does a constitutionally illegal state legislature have the right to rewrite the NC Constitution?
Outraged Republican legislative leaders - feeling that Judge Collins had no right to rule on their constitutional legitimacy - appealed the ruling to a three-judge panel of the state Appellate Court, and last week, both sides argued their respective side.
An attorney for Republican lawmakers maintained that it would be impractical to undo every law state law makers passed subsequent to being ruled racially gerrymandered by a federal court, and doing so would open a floodgate of litigation against other legislation passed by the GOP supermajority at that time.
But an attorney representing the NCNAACP countered that they are not targeting every law passed, but rather just the legislature’s right to place the six constitutional amendments on the 2018 ballot for ratification by voters, four of which passed, and two of which were being challenged.
While Republicans argued that if the federal court which ruled the legislature unconstitutionally elected wanted new elections, it could have ordered new elections. But the NCNAACP attorney countered that the federal court did see the need for a new election, but couldn’t order one because there wasn’t time to reasonably hold one.
The three-judge panel was comprised of two Republicans and one Democrat. Regardless of the decision, the case is likely to be appealed to the NC Supreme Court, which has a 6-1 Democrat majority.