Wednesday, November 01, 2023

The 3-Judge Panel in Cooper v. Berger (2023)


Gov. Roy Cooper sued (Cooper v. Berger, redux) October 10th, minutes after the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly successfully overrode his veto of a bill (S 512, a regular horror show of an omnibus) wherein Berger-Moore stripped the governor of power to appoint members of important boards and commissions (a bunch of them that guard public policy, including the N.C. Utilities Commission, which sets electricity rates, and the Board of Transportation, and the Environmental Management Commission, which sets pollution standards for businesses), and gave that power to themselves, to Berger-Moore personally (no kidding), thus creating a whole new level of political patronage and the wide-eyed expectation that corruption will surely follow. Cooper filed for an injunction to block implementation of Senate Bill 512 (and House Bill 488) "while their constitutionality is argued." 

A 3-judge panel

According to the new highly partisan court system Berger-Moore have set up, Chief Justice Paul Newby gets to pick the three-judge panel that will decide the constitutionality of the lege's taking so blatantly the administrative powers of the gov. The pool of superior court judges to hear such cases is now also appointed by Berger-Moore. It's wholesale power-grabbing. 

For hearing and ruling on this case, Newby chose Superior Court justices John Dunlow, Paul Holcombe, and Dawn Layton. They were scheduled to hear the case in Wake County this very day, starting at 10 a.m. 

John M. Dunlow (Republican), a superior court judge for Judicial District 9 in Granville County. His current term ends on December 31, 2026. He was a founding partner in Dunlow & Wilkinson, P.A., in Oxford, NC. He has a B.S. from AppState in poly sci and a J.D. from Campbell.

Paul A. Holcombe III (Republican), Resident Superior Court Judge for Johnston County in Smithfield, NC. Proud member of The Federalist Society. He got his J.D. at the University of Tennessee and worked as an assistant D.A. in Tennessee for some eight years before moving to North Carolina and taking the asst. D.A. route again, rising quickly to District Judge and then Superior Court Judge.

Dawn Layton (Democrat), superior court judge in Dist. 16A which includes Anson, Richmond, and Scotland counties. Appointed to the bench by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2019, she won in her own right in 2020 for an eight-year term. She's another one who learned her law in the assistant D.A. trenches, after getting her J.D. from Regent University School of Law in 2004.


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