The NC Insider reports that groups challenging North Carolina legislative and congressional districts are again asking the state Supreme Court to have Justice Paul Newby step aside from hearing the case.
From the Insider: Lawyers representing the NAACP and other plaintiffs challenging the maps filed lengthy briefs on Friday as they appeal a lower court ruling that upheld the districts. The filings raise the issue of whether Newby should take part in hearing the case in light of campaign money that flowed from a Washington-based Republican Party group supporting his candidacy. The same group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, also employed a consultant, Tom Hofeller, that GOP lawmakers referred to as the chief architect of the congressional and legislative district plans.
Thus, unless Justice Newby recuses himself, he will rule on the validity of redistricting plans that were drawn, endorsed and embraced by the principal funder of a committee supporting his campaign for re-election, the brief said.
The Republican group provided $1,165,000 to independent campaign committees supporting Newbys election, according to the brief. The lawyers representing the groups challenging the maps argue that a U.S. Supreme Court decision, case law in North Carolina and the states Code of Judicial Conduct demand that Newby step aside.
The U.S. Supreme Court case cited involved a West Virginia Supreme Court justice who was set to hear an appeal involving a mining company after the head of that company had put $3 million toward supporting his candidacy. The court brief points out that two former chief justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court, James Exum and I. Beverly Lake Jr., filed friend of the court briefs in that case supporting recusal.
Late last year, the state Supreme Court denied an initial request to have Newby step aside while it considered whether communication between lawyers and GOP legislators involved in the map-drawing should be made public. The latest court brief argues that Newbys removal from consideration of the case is more urgent now that the court is preparing to hear the actual appeal of whether the maps are constitutional.
In another 337-page brief, the NAACP and other Democratic-leaning groups repeat arguments that they made before the lower court in trying to make the case that the Republican-drawn maps are unconstitutional. Those arguments include that the maps created racially gerrymandered districts with no basis in the law for doing so, that race was the predominant factor in the creation of at least one district, that the districts violated the whole county provision that was enforced by the justices a decade earlier, and that the unnecessary splitting of precincts burdens the right to vote.