How Moore v. Harper to Supreme Court may become moot: NPR

A protester holds up a sign that reads ‘ALL NOT TO OUR STATE COURTS!’ at a December 2022 rally outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Harnik/AP

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Andrew Harnik/AP

A protester holds up a sign that reads ‘ALL NOT TO OUR STATE COURTS!’ at a December 2022 rally outside the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Harnik/AP

An unusual ruling from North Carolina’s highest state court has raised questions about whether the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately dismiss a major election case over a once fringe theory that could upend federal elections across the country.

Late last week, the Supreme Court of North Carolina — where Republican justices recently took majority control after last year’s election — granted a request from GOP state lawmakers to rehear the business, which at the state level involves voting cards for Congress and the state. legislative constituencies.

And depending on how and when the state court rules on the Congressional map after its rehearing scheduled for March 14, the legal path forward for this closely watched case in the U.S. Supreme Court could get messy.

Election watchers have kept their eyes on the case – known to the US Supreme Court as the Moore v. Harper — because it could have far-reaching implications for the upcoming federal election. At its heart is the widely contested idea called the “independent state legislature theory”. He claims that the US Constitution gives state legislatures a special kind of power to determine how federal elections are conducted without any checks or balances from state constitutions or state courts.

Republican state lawmakers have used the theory to justify arguing in the U.S. Supreme Court that the North Carolina Supreme Court, which previously had a Democratic majority, overstepped its authority by invalidating a map of congressional districts. approved by the legislature for violating the North Carolina constitution.

The North Carolina Supreme Court agreeing to rehear the case opened up the possibility that the state court’s February 2022 ruling against the lawmaker-approved map could be overturned.

This type of reversal could render the case moot by resolving the legal dispute, which may then no longer require U.S. Supreme Court review.

But the nation’s top court, which heard oral argument in the case in December, could still move forward with its own decision in the case by the end of June, when its current term is due to end, said Carolyn Shapiro, law professor and co-director of the Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Institute at the United States Supreme Court.

“The timing is important. Even if the North Carolina Supreme Court ultimately says the prior notice was wrong, if they do it after the [U.S.] The Supreme Court rules in Moore v. HarperI don’t think it matters,” Shapiro explains. “There’s a bit of a chicken game.”

And if the state court issues a new ruling that overturns its earlier ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court rules, Shapiro says there could be an argument for the High Court to weigh in on that term during this offseason for major federal elections.

“In other types of cases, I think the Supreme Court of the United States would probably wait to see what the state court does. But because this case is of such importance in terms of the conduct of the election , there are good reasons for the United States Supreme Court to decide now,” adds Shapiro.

Another layer of complications could be introduced by how Republican North Carolina state lawmakers and their opponents are reacting to the state court’s new ruling.

“State Court Elections Matter”

And the flip-flop in state court rulings that could result from the North Carolina Supreme Court’s rehearing of this case could become more common in other parts of the country, says Robert Yablon, associate professor of law that helps run the University of Wisconsin. Law School State Democracy Research Initiative.

“As state supreme courts across the country are increasingly asked to deal with burning issues,” Yablon says, “we might see more of those demands and we might see more doctrinal shifts in a way that we don’t. don’t see as much turnover in the United States Supreme Court, where you don’t have as much turnover as you sometimes see in state courts.”

It’s a reminder, Yablon adds, that “state court elections matter.”

In a dissenting opinion from the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision last week to rehear both that case and another that struck down the state’s voter ID requirements, the court’s two Democratic justices noted that “in a single day, the Majority granted more rehearing requests than it has in the past twenty years.”

Public confidence in the state court, Judge Anita Earls wrote in the opinion appended by Judge Michael Morgan, “depends on the fragile trust that our jurisprudence will not change with the tide of each election. Yet there took this Court just one month to send a smoke signal to the public that our decisions are fleeting, and our precedent is as enduring as the terms of the judges who sit on the bench.”

Regardless of the outcome of this North Carolina case in state court, the theory of an independent state legislature will likely continue to hover around the role of the United States Supreme Court.

Many court observers have noted the difficulty of answering all of the legal questions raised by the disputed theory in this North Carolina case.

Republican lawmakers in the state of Ohio have already launched another redistricting case over the theory that is currently waiting for judges to decide whether to go about it.

Edited by: Benjamin Swasey


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