Common Cause NC statement on appeals court ruling in Common Cause v. Forest
RALEIGH – The NC Court of Appeals today issued a ruling affirming a lower court decision in favor of defendants in the case of Common Cause v. Forest. The lawsuit filed in April 2017 argues that legislative leaders violated the North Carolina Constitution in December 2016 when, with no notice to the public, they called a special session to make sweeping changes to state government.
The following is a statement from Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, in response to today’s court ruling:
“There was no justifiable reason for the special legislative session that was hatched in secrecy. It was a deliberate effort by Republican legislative leaders to keep citizens in the dark about their plans to engage in a nakedly partisan power grab. We will now consider whether to seek review from the North Carolina Supreme Court.”
The plaintiffs in Common Cause v. Forest argue that Republican legislative leaders violated the NC Constitution in December 2016 when, with no notice to the public, they called a special session to make sweeping changes to state government. Unlike each of the preceding 30 extra sessions, dating back to 1960, citizens were given no advance notice that the December 2016 Fourth Extra Session would be called, and no notice of the subjects it would address.
After convening that Fourth Extra Session in 2016, legislative leaders modified the rules of the House and Senate to speed up the legislative process and curtail participation in committee meetings, effectively eliminating debate and deliberation. The legislature passed the bills less than 48 hours after they were introduced.
In April 2017, Common Cause and 10 North Carolina citizens filed suit against the legislature’s surprise special session. At the heart of the challenge is a violation of citizens’ constitutional right to “instruct their representatives” – a right expressly guaranteed by Article I, Section 12 of the North Carolina Constitution.
The absence of public notice and wholesale changes to the legislative rules made it virtually impossible for North Carolina citizens to communicate with their representatives about the sweeping legislation proposed and enacted during the Fourth Extra Session, which included passage of these bills:
- Senate Bill 4 changed the structure of state and county boards of elections and the State Ethics Commission, created partisan appellate judicial elections, and stripped the newly elected governor of the power to administer the Industrial Commission; and
- House Bill 17 curtailed the governor’s appointive powers and transferred power from the State Board of Education to the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Common Cause NC is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.
Media contact: Bryan Warner, Common Cause NC, 919-836-0027 or firstname.lastname@example.org