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Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Freistaat Trump?

by Tom Sullivan

It's hard to go a week here in the "newly insane state of North Carolina"* without someone in elected office (as a patient in D.C. puts is) seeing somebody in court over something. Since the NCGOP took state government by the throat in 2013, that something has frequently involved matters Republicans euphemistically refer to as "election integrity," known in less deranged climes as voter suppression.

With Democrat Roy Cooper in the governor's mansion and Democrat Josh Stein as Cooper's replacement as NC attorney general, power in Raleigh has shifted somewhat. How much will depend on what courts do with the legal messes left over from One-term Pat McCrory's tenure.

Yesterday afternoon, Stein tweeted:

In his final days in office, McCrory had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the state's appeal of the case it lost in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last July. The point here is for the new Democratic electeds to pull the plug on the appeal of the Republican voter suppression law before a new Justice Gorsuch turns a 4-4 Supreme Court into a 5-4 conservative one. Withdrawing the appeal would allow the lower court ruling to stand. As Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog notes, Stein's pointing out the potential for saving NC taxpayers up to $12 million in attorney’s fees for dropping the case is a nice touch. Plaintiffs included the League of Women Voters, individual plaintiffs, and the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP.

Not so fast, say Republicans. A spokeswoman for Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger claims Cooper and Stein cannot fire the attorneys for the state:

"Roy Cooper’s and Josh Stein’s desperate and politically motivated stunt to derail North Carolina’s voter ID law is not only illegal, it also raises serious questions about whether they’ve allowed their own personal and political prejudices and conflicts of interest to cloud their professional judgment," Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in a joint statement.
Yes, they really do talk like that, and they legislate in similar tones.

From the Raleigh News and Observer:
Thomas Farr, a Raleigh attorney who has represented the lawmakers for several years in the elections law case, sent a letter to William McKinney, Cooper’s general counsel, arguing that neither the governor nor Stein have the authority to discharge him and others at his firm from the case and that he and others plan to continue in the case.

If the request by Cooper and Stein to withdraw the appeal is granted, the State Board of Elections, its individual members and its executive director will not immediately be withdrawn from the case. They would have to make similar requests.
And thanks to the legislative follies of the special session back in December, who controls the state Board of Elections is still in question. The Republican law restructuring the board has already been to the state Supreme Court. Judges issued an injunction pending a trial on March 7.

Rick Hasen writes, "I’ve gone into the morass before trying to figure out who can control NC litigation in these circumstances and I will have to leave this to NC law gurus." Or maybe to the exorcists?
Some Republican lawmakers have offered amendments to the North Carolina Constitution that would remove a provision prohibiting the state's secession ...
Another amendment "focuses on language stating a citizen owes paramount allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and U.S. government. That proposal would eliminate the reference to the government."

Perhaps the Tar Heel state could rebrand as Freistaat Trump? I hear South Carolina has a lightly used flag it doesn't know what to do with.

(* trademark Charlie Pierce)