The state Supreme Court decided that a legislature with members from unlawful racially gerrymandered districts don’t automatically have the power to ask voters to change the constitution.
The Court sent the issue of constitutional amendments requiring photo ID to vote and capping the state income tax rate back to the trial court to get more questions answered and to determine whether the amendments should be disallowed.
That was almost three months ago.
The order must pass through the state Appeals Court on its way back to the trial court, but a panel of three Appeals Court judges is holding on to it.
In an attempt to get the Supreme Court’s order dislodged, lawyers for the state NAACP asked the high court to step in and issue a writ of mandamus, or a command telling the Appeals Court to send the matter back to Wake Superior Court.
The constitutional amendments case was one that exposed deep partisan divisions in the state appellate courts. The Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision, with all three Republicans dissenting. The case made it to the Supreme Court on appeal of a 2-1 Appeals Court decision where Republican Judges Donna Stroud and Chris Dillon rejected the NAACP’s arguments. The Democratic judge, Rueben Young, dissented. He lost his race for reelection in 2020. Jeff Carpenter, a Republican, is Young’s replacement on the panel.
Included as an exhibit in the NAACP’s Supreme Court petition is a Nov. 14 email from Appeals Court clerk Eugene H. Soar to Kym Meyer, a lawyer representing the NAACP, telling her that the Appeals Court panel met shortly after the Supreme Court sent its mandate down on Sept. 8. The Appeals Court panel did not enter an order or opinion on sending the case back to the trial court, and Soar wrote that did not know about its future meetings or plans.
Quoting an old Supreme Court opinion, the NAACP petition says that a writ of mandamus is an “extraordinary remedy which the court will grant only in cases of necessity.” It is an order that can’t be refused “when it is sought to enforce a clear legal right to which it is appropriate.”
The petition says the Appeals Court has failed to do a job required of it.
“Given the additional factual inquiry that this Court has ordered the trial court to conduct, additional delays in resolving this case may be inevitable,” the petition says, “But there is no reason to allow the inexplicable delay caused by the Respondent Court of Appeals to drag on indefinitely, blocking the trial court from fulfilling this Court’s order.”
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