On Friday, June 28, 2024, The Carolina Journal reported that a three-judge panel unanimously dismissed former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr’s “fair elections” lawsuit.

Orr had filed the lawsuit in January of this year on behalf of 11 plaintiffs – nine Democrats and two unaffiliated voters. The suit argued that certain congressional and state legislative election districts passed last year during redistricting violated voters’ constitutional right to “fair” elections. In particular, the complaint challenged new Congressional Districts 6, 13 and 14, as well as State Senate District 7 and State House District 105.

However, the three-judge panel appointed by Chief Justice Paul Newby of the North Carolina Supreme Court determined that the issues raised in Orr’s complaint were “non-justiciable political questions” that were inappropriate for the courts to resolve. The panel, consisting of Judges Jeffery Foster, Angela Puckett and Ashley Gore, said there was no judicially discoverable standard for them to use to determine if elections were “fair” as argued by Orr.

In their decision, the judges pointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court’s ruling last April in Harper v. Hall, where the court rejected partisan gerrymandering claims under the state constitution. The Harper decision established that redistricting matters involve political questions that are not for the courts to undertake. The panel determined that Orr’s lawsuit dealt with the same underlying issue of redrawing legislative election districts.

Two weeks prior, Orr and Republican attorney Phil Strach, who represents legislative leaders, presented arguments before the three-judge panel regarding the legislature’s motion to dismiss the case. Orr argued the court was not being asked to create a new right but rather affirm the existing right to “fair” elections. However, Strach contended there was no clear definition of what constituted a “fair” election and warned courts would be overwhelmed with constant new lawsuits from losing candidates.

During the hearing, judges struggled to pin Orr down on an exact definition of fairness or objective standard for judges to apply. In dismissing the lawsuit, the panel found the issues raised non-justiciable political questions inappropriate for the courts to decide.

 

 

Source: The Carolina Journal