Under the Dome

Redistricting plaintiffs ask for Newby recusal

Democrats, the state NAACP, and other nonprofits who are suing over redistricting plans want Supreme Court Judge Paul Newby to recuse himself from participating in the case.

They filed a motion Wednesday saying that individuals and political groups with a direct stake in the outcome of the redistricting case spent heavily to support his re-election, and their support "had a significant and disproportionate influence in Justice Newby's victory."

Democrats, the NAACP and other groups are claim in a lawsuit that new legislative and congressional district lines were drawn to limit black voters' influence. In their court filing Wednesday , they link a chain of political contributions from the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee to the N.C. Judicial Coalition, which spent nearly $2 million airing television ads supporting Newby.
Newby, the Republican incumbent, beat challenger Sam J. Ervin IV 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.

The courts "can't have the appearance of being sold to the highest bidder," said the Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president. Newby should recuse himself "to protect the integrity of the court," he said.

The Supreme Court heard arguments months ago on the Democrats' request to see email and other correspondence from the legislative Republicans' outside lawyers as they counseled them on creating the districts. The Democrats and advocacy groups claimed that since the private lawyers were paid with state money, their records on certain redistricting topics should be public record, just as a state employees' would be. A three-judge panel agreed, but Republican leaders appealed the decision.

The redistricting consultant for the Republican State Leadership Committee was the "chief architect" of the redistricting maps, and received help from the redistricting counsel for the RNC, according to the motion.

Art Pope, a wealthy Raleigh businessman and former legislator, worked with Republican lawyer Thomas Farr as counsel to the legislature's redistricting committee chairmen, the motion says.

The Pope Foundation funds the Civitas Institute, which spent $74,5000 on radio and newspapers ads related to the Newby election, according to the motion. Pope is also on the Americans for Prosperity board, which spent at least $225,000 on mail about Newby. Pope's company contributed at least $150,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Update:  Dallas Woodhouse, Americans for Prosperity state director,  said the motion would set a "horrific standard" by having judges recuse themselves over money they did not ask for and had no role in spending.

Independent groups could manipulate the system and spend to support judges that they want to drop out of certain cases, he said.

"If the standard is that judges should recuse themselves based on independent expenditures that they had nothing to do with, I promise you, they will come to regret that standard," Woodhouse said.

Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina noted that other Supreme Court justices had recused themselves from participating in redistricting matters.

Newby is an honorable man, Hall said, but the decision by outside groups to pay to help him win leaves the perception that they are trying to influence the court.


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Why do we have to change redistricting now?

Hasn't it been working well these past 100 years or so?  Why do we need to change it all of a sudden?  It is a perplexing question.

Why don't we go to non-partisan redistricting?

All this could be avoided. As it should be. No one should be allowed to play games with our electoral map. 

Absurd request

Who doesn't have a stake in the redistricting process? We all do. This request is absurd. Justice Newby is a man of incredible wisdom and integrity and exactly the type of judge we need to help decide key legal questions for North Carolina.

rank hypocrisy

The hypocrisy of the Democrats and their liberal interest-group allies is breathtaking.

After all, the main reason why they ran, supported, and funded the little-known challenger Jimmy Ervin against incumbent Justice Newby was so that a new Democratic majority on the N.C. Supreme Court would strike down the Republican redistricting plan and come up with one more favorable to Democrats -- which, if Ervin had won, surely would have happened.  And in that event, you can bet they wouldn't be calling on Justice Ervin to recuse himself.

Both sides played politics in their support of their candidates.  That doesn't mean the winner should be disqualified from participating in the case, even if we all know how it'll shake out.

People offended by the blatant politics of the situation should push for bipartisan legislation to change to a system of merit appointments and retention elections, which Republican and Democratic judges have supported in the past.  Bipartisan redistricting reform is a worthy aim, too.

But until then, everyone plays by the well-known existing rules, and the loser doesn't get a do-over.

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