by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Left-of-center partisans like to crow about the N.C. General Assembly losing case after case in court.
They conveniently omit the cases in which lawmakers have prevailed. These include the original 2013 ruling in North Carolina’s first redistricting battle of the decade and the trial-court ruling in the Cooper v. Berger case dealing with a newly merged state elections and ethics board. Both featured three-judge panels of two Democrats and one Republican siding with the Republican-led General Assembly against Democratic challenges. (Both rulings eventually were overturned, of course, by appellate court rulings. The Cooper v. Berger ruling featured a rare 4-3 partisan split within the state’s highest court.)
The latest instance in which Republican legislators prevailed over a Democratic challenge arrived Monday. A three-judge federal panel (two Democratic appointees and one GOP appointee) of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out a (Democratic) trial judge’s order restoring primaries for statewide judicial primaries.
The practical implication of the ruling is limited since the 4th Circuit already had placed a temporary block on the order in February. Still, the ruling offers one noteworthy line.
The state Democratic Party and seven of its county branches were arguing in favor of holding judicial primaries. They wanted the federal courts to restore primaries before a court could conduct a trial in the case.
The three-judge panel’s response: “We conclude that at this stage of the case, Appellees have not met their burden in any respect. We anticipate this case will proceed to the merits.” [Emphasis added.]
Appellees, in this case, were the Democrats.