Court of Appeal: GOP lawmakers cannot join NC voter identification process
A judge did not cross the line when she refused to let North Carolina legislative leaders formally defend the state’s latest photo-ID voting law with other government prosecutors in the State, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.
A majority of 15 U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judges upheld District Judge Loretta Biggs’ 2019 rulings barring Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger from becoming accused in a racial bias lawsuit filed by the state NAACP and several locals. Unless the Supreme Court of the United States is overturned, lawyers for the legislative leaders who helped pass the 2018 law will not be able to argue for it in a lawsuit that is to be held. ‘open next January.
Nine of the judges agreed that Biggs had not abused his discretion with his ruling. Biggs found no evidence that attorneys for Attorney General Josh Stein’s office – representing members of the State Board of Elections, the defendants named in the lawsuit – were inadequately defending the law on their own.
Writing the majority opinion, circuit judge Pamela Harris said the lower court correctly followed federal rules in determining whether Berger and Moore should be allowed to intervene.
The “purported interest of lawmakers in defending (the law) on behalf of the state of North Carolina was already adequately represented by the State Council of Elections and the attorney general,” Harris wrote.
Republicans have said they should be allowed to defend a law they have approved. They also pointed to Stein’s previous opposition to a voter identification law and his office’s defense of the current law in a similar trial in state court in April as evidence that GOP legislative leaders must get involved. There was no verdict in the state trial.
Harris wrote that Stein, a Democrat, expressing opinions contrary to the law in the past “is not grounds for a federal court to infer that he would abdicate his official duty to the state by subterfuge, by a false defense of the law ”.
The entire Richmond, Va.-Based appeals court agreed to hear arguments after a majority of a three-judge panel said last summer that Biggs had not considered the ‘deal properly and told him to try again. Lawyers for the NAACP have asked that the entire appeals court intervene.
The civil rights group is happy with Monday’s decision, NAACP Chairman Reverend Anthony Spearman said in an emailed statement. In these legal cases, “there is a public prosecutor elected by the people and appointed by the constitution to fulfill this function,” he added.
The six dissenting judges of the court of appeal wrote three opinions among them. Biggs ignored a North Carolina law that asks a federal court to allow both the legislative and executive branches to participate in lawsuits challenging a state law, the circuit judge wrote. Marvin Quattlebaum.
“Although the federal courts do not have to defer completely to this public policy decision, the district court cannot fail to give weight to the state’s choice,” Quattlebaum wrote, adding that Biggs had also set the bar too high to intervene.
GOP Senator Danny Britt of Robeson County said in a press release that the legislature “has no confidence” in Stein to defend the law in the courts and that Republicans will closely monitor Stein’s actions in the case. in the future. Stein’s spokeswoman Nazneen Ahmed said the attorney general’s office “will continue to vigorously defend the state in every case that we handle according to the law.”
Quattlebaum and Harris were part of another three-judge panel that unanimously said last December that Biggs wrongly blocked the application of the 2018 Voter Identification Act before the trial because it has said there was a good chance the NAACP lawsuit would be successful. Those appeal judges ruled that Biggs erred in stating that the photo ID warrant was racially biased in large part because a 2013 voter identification law was overturned on grounds similar. The 2018 law was enacted a month after voters agreed to add a voter identification provision to the state’s constitution.