Thursday, August 16, 2018

Another Panel of Judges Puts Temporary Injunction on Printing November Ballots

Generally speaking -- and how else would a non-lawyer speak on such a subject? -- temporary injunctions aren't slapped on the printing of ballots unless there's some perhaps wee but fair-haired expectation that the plaintiff might win on the merits.

The plaintiff -- Governor Roy Cooper. The defendants: Phil Berger/Tim Moore (for the NC General Assembly) and the State Board of Elections, which is charged with printing Berger/Moore's constitutional amendments on the fall ballot. The issue for Cooper: Two of the amendments would seriously rewrite the governor's role and destroy the whole principle of the separation of powers, but those ends are studiously hidden from voters by bland and misleading language. It's pretty demonstrably true.

(In a separate filing, the State Board of Elections agrees that the proposed amendments essentially dissemble their true import.)

In court yesterday, a panel of three superior court judges granted the governor's request for a temporary injunction to block the printing of ballots until the merits of the argument can be decided.

Matthew Burns and Laura Leslie reported on the court arguments yesterday morning. This, covering some of Cooper's side:
The judicial vacancies amendment ... calls for "a nonpartisan, merit-based system that relies on professional qualifications instead of political influence." But Adam Doerr, an attorney for Cooper, noted that lawmakers would have the power to appoint anyone they want to the bench and that the only qualifications the state requires for someone to be a judge are that they are a licensed attorney under the age of 72. [emphasis added]
"What [the amendment] is actually doing is letting the General Assembly exercise political influence over judicial selection that it currently lacks but would very much like to have," Doerr said.
Similarly, the appointments amendment calls for "clarify[ing] the appointment authority of the Legislative and the Judicial Branches," as if, Doerr said, it was merely "a bit of legislative housekeeping." He said the state Supreme Court has clearly laid out the appointment powers of the governor, so no clarification is needed." ... 
"If you want to seek the consent of the voters to amend the constitution, you must ask them and you must tell them what you are doing," Doerr [argued].
How did the lawyer for Berger/Moore respond? I shit you not:
Martin Warf, a lawyer for legislative leaders, argued there's no standard for what is misleading and that lawmakers are under no constitutional duty to inform voters about the amendments on the ballot. Voters who want to know more about them, he said, can do research.
Berger/Moore's contention: It's up to voters not to get fooled by their own government when that government is going everything in its power to fool the voters.

Burns and Leslie suggest that the three judges hearing this case are "skeptical" about the governor's argument. That may be, but they at least want to be further schooled in the legal implications of what Berger/Moore are trying to do to the state of North Carolina before they allow the printing of those ballots.

1 comment:

J.W. Williamson said...

Since I couldn't be in that courtroom, I rely on people who were. Here's a much more detailed account: