RALEIGH, N.C. — In an extreme departure from precedent, the North Carolina Supreme Court announced Friday it would rehear two cases — one involving statewide redistricting and the other involving a discriminatory voter ID bill — after Republican lawmakers petitioned for a different outcome following the election of new justices, which flipped the court to a Republican majority.
Lawmakers filed two petitions for rehearings January 20, 2023: one in Harper v. Hall — a case brought by Common Cause North Carolina after lawmakers gerrymandered legislative and Congressional maps to give Republicans an edge at the disproportionate expense of Black voters — and the other in Holmes v. Moore after a decision last month struck down their most recent iteration of a photo voter ID law as an unconstitutional measure passed in part to discriminate against African American voters.
“The state Supreme Court’s landmark ruling just last year was clear that partisan gerrymandering violates the constitutional freedoms of North Carolinians,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina. “Sadly, politicians in the legislature refuse to respect our rights as they seek power to illegally rig our elections. This fight is not over. Once again, we will stand up for the people of North Carolina and defend our state’s constitution against political attacks.”
Common Cause, represented by Southern Coalition for Social Justice and co-counsel Hogan Lovells, asked the Court to dismiss lawmakers’ request in Harper as frivolous, improperly motivated and grossly lacking in the requirements of propriety.
“We’re disappointed the Court is giving legislators another bite at the apple, and we maintain that this is politically motivated and outside the scope of what’s permitted by the Constitution,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “However, we look forward to arguing this case again before the Court and showing what already has been captured on the record.”
Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls wrote a dissent, with Justice Michael Morgan joining, to the majority’s decision to rehear Harper.
“The majority’s order fails to acknowledge the radical break with 205 years of history that the decision to rehear this case represents,” Earls wrote. “It has long been the practice of this Court to respect precedent and the principle that once the Court has ruled, that ruling will not be disturbed merely because of a change in the Court’s composition.”
She added that data from the Supreme Court’s electronic filing system shows that since January 1993, a total of 214 petitions for rehearing were filed, but only two were granted.
Harper will be reheard by the Court on March 14, 2023.
In Holmes, the state’s high court already decided in December to strike down lawmakers’ most recent iteration of a photo voter ID law as an unconstitutional measure passed in part to discriminate against African American voters.
The Court majority also calendared that matter to be reheard on March 14, 2023.
“This certainly isn’t the outcome we’d hoped for, especially in a settled case with the legislators reasserting the exact same contentions they previously argued unsuccessfully, but we will continue to fight for the rights of all people in North Carolina to vote freely and fairly and look forward to making that case again before the new Court,” said Jeff Loperfido, Interim Chief Counsel of Voting Rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
The case was originally filed by Southern Coalition for Social Justice joined by co-counsel from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, in December 2018. It alleged North Carolina’s 2018 voter ID law (S.B. 824), approved by a Republican-led supermajority in a lame-duck session, was racially motivated.
Justice Morgan wrote a dissent in Holmes with Justice Earls joining.
“The allowance of this extraordinary remedy to petitioners in this case, under the existent circumstances, may serve to foment concerns that North Carolina’s highest state court is engaged in the determination of challenging and legitimate legal disputes with a perceived desire to reach outcomes which are inconsistent with this Court’s well-established principles of adherence to legal precedent, stare decisis, and the rule of law,” Morgan wrote.
Common Cause North Carolina is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.