A Democrat judge manages to unite North Carolina conservatives and liberals, who are otherwise bitterly divided over everything.
A Wake County Superior Court judge in North Carolina has written a ruling so outlandish that state Democrats and Republicans, who are normally at each other’s throats, have found themselves in rare agreement.
The Raleigh News and Observer reports:
A judge has just thrown out two amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that voters approved in November.
One of the amendments was to implement a voter ID requirement, and the other was a cap on the state income tax rate.
The North Carolina General Assembly is so gerrymandered that its members don’t truly represent the people of the state and thus should never have proposed constitutional amendments in the first place, Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins wrote in his ruling that was issued late Friday afternoon.
“An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” he wrote.
The North Carolina NAACP, which filed the lawsuit, praised the Democrat judge’s ruling:
“We are delighted that the acts of the previous majority, which came to power through the use of racially discriminatory maps, have been checked,” N.C. NAACP president Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman said in a press release after the ruling was issued. “The prior General Assembly’s attempt to use its ill-gotten power to enshrine a racist photo voter ID requirement in the state constitution was particularly egregious, and we applaud the court for invalidating these attempts at unconstitutional overreach.”
This is just bizarre, especially when you consider the fact that these were statewide referendums that a comfortable majority of voters across North Carolina approved in November 2018. It’s not like the amendments only applied to so-called “gerrymandered” districts.
There were two other statewide amendments that passed: One to protect hunting and fishing rights and one that strengthened victims rights. Oddly enough, they weren’t impacted by the ruling.
Barbara Jackson, a Republican and former NC Supreme Court justice, had this to say about the news:
— Barbara Jackson (@JudgeJackson) February 23, 2019
Normally, anytime a judge rules against Republicans in the state legislature, Democrats and their affiliated special interest groups waste no time high-fiving each other and taking to social media to boast about their judicial “victories.” And they’ve had a number of wins in liberal-friendly courtrooms, considering they’ve gone to court over virtually every major piece of legislation passed since Republicans came into the majority for the first time in over 100 years back in 2010.
But in this case, their reactions are different, divided. State Senator Jeff Jackson (no relation), a Democrat whose profile was elevated nationally during the HB2 “bathroom bill” drama, posted a thread on Twitter denouncing the ruling.
2. The ruling itself is unworkable. I don’t think there’s a legal principle that would validate statutes but invalidate constitutional amendments on the grounds of gerrymandering. The rationale would be identical for both. 4/
— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) February 25, 2019
If a legislature can’t be allowed to pass constitutional amendments, then it shouldn’t be allowed to pass statutes either. Which means the precedent here really supports rolling back a decade’s worth of laws. As much as some people might appreciate that, it’s not a viable option.
— Sen. Jeff Jackson (@JeffJacksonNC) February 25, 2019
What he doesn’t mention is the fact that the ruling, if it stands, would invalidate seats some of his Democrat colleagues won in 2018 because of the alleged “gerrymandered” nature of several districts. So he also has political reasons for opposing it.
Perhaps most the most interesting reaction to Judge Collins’s overreach was from the Charlotte Observer‘s left wing editorial board, who have never come across a liberal judicial activist they didn’t like. In an editorial with the headline “A liberal NC ruling that does liberals no favors”, they wrote:
It’s a reach of legal logic, a ruling that appears more like progressive fist-pounding than something that should come from the bench. It also prompts a follow-up question: If, as Collins contends, gerrymandering strips the General Assembly of the authority to amend the N.C. constitution, wouldn’t it also render invalid any laws these same legislators pass?
Those same Republicans have now been handed a gift from Collins — a real-life example that overreaching judges want to bend the constitution for progressive purposes. It’s the go-to gripe whenever a ruling doesn’t go Republicans way, something that’s happened often since the GOP took power in North Carolina and passed a series of constitutionally iffy laws. Those include previous attempts at voter suppression that courts have vigorously slapped down.
But on Friday, Collins tainted legitimate court decisions by allowing Republicans to point to one fantastical ruling. He did North Carolinians, liberal or conservative, no favors.
Translation: Because Collins has proven a point Republicans in North Carolina have long made about activism from the bench, we are therefore against the ruling because it invalidates our other editorials declaring liberal judicial activism doesn’t exist.
On the conservative side, John Locke Foundation chairman John Hood dissected the ruling and believes it will ultimately hurt Democrats more than Republicans:
North Carolinians support voter ID and the tax cap. They just added them to the state constitution. If this decision survives appeal, voters will view the state’s judiciary as the usurpers — and they’ll be right.
Politically, the plaintiffs and the progressive interest groups who have financed and cheered them on have put Democrats in a perilous situation and handed Republicans a potent election issue. If a Democratic judiciary strikes down popular policies just approved by the voters themselves, most will see the Democrats as the party hostile to popular sovereignty here, not the Republicans.
In any event, as North Carolina conservative activist A.P. Dillon noted, when you as a progressive lose the Charlotte Observer on a ruling that – on paper – benefits liberals, you’ve really done something wrong.
Republican leaders in the state house and senate have vowed to appeal.
— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —DONATE
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