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NC Justices Asked To Hear Legislative Session Case

N.C. Supreme Court
North Carolina Judicial Branch

RALEIGH — Plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of a legislative session Republicans quickly called in 2016 to limit the power of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper before he could take office now want the state's highest court to hear their case.

Lawyers for Common Cause and ten citizens filed an appeal petition with the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, about a month after the Court of Appeals upheld the legality of the three-day session in December 2016. Republicans in charge of the House and Senate approved a pair of measures during the session that weakened Cooper's power as governor.

Those who sued said the fleetness of GOP leaders calling the session and pushing through legislation violated their right in the North Carolina Constitution to “instruct their representatives.”

The three-judge Court of Appeals panel unanimously upheld a lower court ruling that refused to invalidate the laws approved in that session. Evidence showed the public clearly knew about the session, the Court of Appeals opinion read, with citizens sending emails to lawmakers and picketing at the Legislative Building to let them know their feelings. The session began roughly two hours after another legislative session on Hurricane Matthew relief adjourned.

In Tuesday's petition, the plaintiffs' lawyers said the Court of Appeals panel got it wrong, because there was “no meaningful opportunity for citizens to persuade their representatives."

“The Court of Appeals failed to consider that defendants’ conduct was especially egregious given the scope of the legislation they enacted,” the attorneys wrote.

Since the Jan. 21 ruling was unanimous, the Supreme Court isn't required to intervene in the case.

The December 2016 laws forced Cooper to have his Cabinet appointees confirmed by senators, among other limitations on his power. Cooper successfully sued to block some changes, such as shifting control over administering elections and reducing the number of employees he could hire.