On Monday, March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in one of North Carolina’s voter ID law cases, NAACP v. Berger, not about the merits of the law, but about who should argue the case. The office of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein has represented the Board of Elections to defend the law’s constitutionality thus far, but Republican lawmakers who passed the law want to take over its defense. The Republican legislators claim that because Democrats like Stein are often against voter ID laws, the Attorney General’s office cannot defend the law as vigorously as they would. The NAACP, which brought the lawsuit originally, supported leaving Stein’s office in charge of the law’s defense. The U.S. Supreme Court may take some time to reach a decision on this side issue, leaving the underlying lawsuit on hold until then.
Last Monday Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court Paul Newby replaced the Superior Court Judge on the Leandro school funding case. Superior Court Judge David Lee, who had been overseeing the case, had ordered lawmakers to provide $1.7 billion to adequately fund North Carolina schools. Newby replaced Lee, a Democrat, with Superior Court Judge Michael L. Robinson, a Republican, and provided no reason for the replacement. The NC Supreme Court agreed the same day to hear an appeal of Lee’s order to fund the Leandro plan, and they directed the trial judge (now Robinson) to review whether the order should be amended based on the recently approved state budget. The replacement took place during the same week that Carolyn Dubay, executive director of the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission, seems to have been pushed to resign over a memo the Commission published reminding judges not to get involved in political campaigns during cycles when they are not up for election.