Strange times: Should the NC Supreme Court get involved in veto-gate?

Depending on whom you talk to and when, North Carolina is

a. on the cusp of a constitutional crisis
b. an object lesson in how to cheat and get away with it
d. yes, and then some

No matter what you call it, these are strange times. A week ago, a trial court declared the districts that gave us the current legislature to be illegal and ordered new maps. This was an extraordinary ruling, appropriate to extraordinary circumstances. The GOP legislature began cheating out of the blocks, using forbidden maps to guide their work. The court will need to intervene again.

And this week, our illegally constituted Republican assembly has used deception and trickery to override the governor's veto. It's brass-knuckled politics, straight from the party of Trump. Maybe not criminal, definitely sleazy. So now what.

First and foremost, uphold the veto in the Senate. It's going to be a close vote, with every Republican voting to cheat.

Next, litigation, Take Tim Moore to court, even if we stop things in the Senate.

Before you start backpedaling, just listen. These are strange times. Governments around the world are struggling with all kinds of chaos, just like we are. In Great Britain, for example, the Scottish Supreme Court last week ruled that Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament was illegal because he lied about his motivations. An extraordinary step for extraordinary circumstances. A ruling against lying.

So here we are in North Carolina. We have an illegally constituted House using deception to win the most consequential legislation in years. Is this kind of behavior something our democracy should tolerate? Even if it's not against the law, it undermines the foundation of our constitution. Being truthful.

That's why this crisis should be in front of the NC Supreme Court right now. I want us to ask the Justices to arbitrate this dispute between the executive and legislative branches. I want them to insist on some boundaries of fair play.

Does that mean I think I know what the Supreme Court might or might not do? I don't have a clue. The fact that there's a Democratic majority on the court seems irrelevant. They should obey the constitution. Period. But as a practical matter, our constitution is full of wiggle room with many passages open to interpretation. One of my favorites is Article 1, Sec. 6. Separation of powers.

"The legislative, executive, and supreme judicial powers of the State government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other."

Today, political power in NC is unbalanced in favor of the legislature. But the truth is, there's just a much political power in the judiciary, which is also elected by the people. The only question is this: Will our justices choose to use it?

They way I see it, the NC Supreme Court could do almost anything it wants in service of democracy in North Carolina. They are the ultimate umpires, they call the strikes. Yes, they could get fired if they piss off enough team managers. But in the short run, they can call a spade a spade.

Maybe they'd send a letter to Tim Moore saying, "Great job, Mr. Speaker. You stuck it to 'em." Or maybe they'd hand down a ruling that says, "We find your practices abhorrent and we declare your trickery unacceptable in this case. Do better."

That's what the Scottish Supreme Court said to Boris Johnson. And I'd sure love to see our state supreme court do something equally meaningful.

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PS I expect experts to take me to task for my lack of legal knowledge. But consider this: we've tried it your way, playing by some pre-ordained list of rules. Maybe we need to challenge our preconceptions about the boundaries of judicial action. Maybe we should ask our judges to ... well ... exercise judgment. Let's throw a fast ball and see what they say.

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Comments

It's probably the only way to

It's probably the only way to get this bullshit reversed or at least set-aside. There's not going to be an encompassing public outcry because their supporters love this shit. The more they "win" by any means, the better. The D9 race proved over 50% of those who voted are assholes because they knowingly voted for an asshole.

Stan Bozarth

One minor stumbling block...

The NC Supreme Court (and the CoA) are appellate courts, meaning they only handle lower court rulings that have been appealed. So before they could (or would) deal with this it would have to start as a lawsuit in District (I think) Court.

That's true in ordinary times

Lots of sections address this. Here's one I like:

Rules of procedure. The Supreme Court shall have exclusive authority to make rules of procedure and practice for the Appellate Division. The General Assembly may make rules of procedure and practice for the Superior Court and District Court Divisions, and the General Assembly may delegate this authority to the Supreme Court. No rule of procedure or practice shall abridge substantive rights or abrogate or limit the right of trial by jury. If the General Assembly should delegate to the Supreme Court the rule-making power, the General Assembly may, nevertheless, alter, amend, or repeal any rule of procedure or practice adopted by the Supreme Court for the Superior Court or District Court Divisions.

The way I see it, the Supreme Court could establish a rule that says we will also accept appeals directly from the State Attorney General. If the legislature is illegally constituted, anything goes.

It's looking like all parties are going to wait

to see if this travesty makes it past the Senate before initiating litigation. That said, I've heard from several people who are exploring litigation options at this moment.

Wouldn't it be interesting if a Court would actually say that intentionally deceiving the public is against the law?