The Pulse

Should the US Supreme Court dismiss the elections law case from North Carolina? The parties have their say.

By: - March 21, 2023 4:30 pm
Photo: Getty Images

Lawyers for NC Republican legislators, voting rights groups, and the U.S Department of Justice told the US Supreme Court whether they think the justices should still decide a case watched nationwide for its potential impact on election laws, even though the issues are still being argued in a North Carolina court. 

The US Supreme Court wanted to know whether it still had jurisdiction in the case known as Moore vs. Harper. The US Supreme Court doesn’t usually hear cases that are still alive in lower courts.

Just last week, lawyers for North Carolina Republican legislative leaders were in state court asking Supreme Court justices to overrule the February 2022 redistricting decision Republicans appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Republican legislators appealed to the US Supreme Court last year after the state Supreme Court threw out redistricting maps based on state constitutional violations and required new plans.

Republicans argued that the Elections Clause in the US Constitution makes legislatures the final state authorities on federal elections laws, including how congressional districts are drawn.  The US Supreme Court heard arguments on the “independent state legislature theory” in December. 

Then, Republican legislators asked for a redo of the state redistricting case after the GOP won the majority on the NC Supreme Court. Republican lawyers asked the court to overrule last year’s redistricting decision. The rehearing was held in Raleigh last week. 

Republican lawyers told the US Supreme Court in a brief filed Monday that it still has jurisdiction.

But the three groups that brought the redistricting case, the NC League of Conservation Voters, Common Cause, and voters backed by the National Redistricting Foundation don’t have a unified opinion on whether the case is properly with the high court. 

Common Cause said the US Supreme Court has jurisdiction. 

Lawyers for the NC League of Conservation Voters and the voters backed by the National Redistricting Foundation reminded the Supreme Court justices that they opposed the court taking the case last year because the North Carolina court wasn’t finished with it. 

The US Solicitor General said it was complicated. 

The state court agreeing to the rehearing makes it hard to argue that it had made a final determination on a federal issue, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote. And if the state court issues a decision before the US Supreme Court issues its opinion, it would moot the federal issue. 

“Given that possibility, it is not clear that it would advance the relevant federal policies for this Court to invest additional time and effort in a case where future events may prevent the Court from resolving the federal question,” she wrote. Still, “no precedent squarely governs this issue, and that the Court could reasonably reach a different conclusion.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.