Plaintiffs file appeal to NC Supreme Court in case of Common Cause v. Forest
RALEIGH – Plaintiffs in Common Cause v. Forest filed a petition on Tuesday with the NC Supreme Court, asking the justices to hear an appeal in the case. The lawsuit 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.
Plaintiffs are asking the court to hold that the General Assembly must provide reasonable notice of the subjects to be addressed before it convenes an extra legislative session.
The following is a statement from Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, on today’s appeal:
“There was no justifiable reason for the 2016 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. It was wrong, and it must not happen again. We are hopeful that the North Carolina Supreme Court will take up our appeal and ultimately rule in favor of the people of North Carolina and our constitutional rights.”
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 1940, 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 (919-836-0027 or firstname.lastname@example.org)