North Carolina Judges Brush Back GOP Legislators in Fight With Democratic Governor

GOP legislators secured last-minute bill from Roy Cooper’s embittered predecessor to strip him of significant powers. Judges say: “Not so fast.” Photo: Ethan Hyman/TNS via Getty Images

Turns out Donald Trump isn’t the only chief executive whose attorney was involved this week in legal proceedings carried out by telephone conference call. While Trump or may not get what he wants from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in putting aside a lower court’s order to freeze implementation of his travel ban, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper did get some immediate relief, as a three-judge Superior Court panel temporarily stopped Republican legislators from acting under the authority of a disputed law hastily enacted to strip Cooper of key gubernatorial powers:

Judges Jesse Caldwell of Gaston County, Todd Burke of Forsyth County and Jeff Foster of Pitt County held a hearing in the case via telephone late Tuesday afternoon. Members of the media listened to the hearing on a speaker phone in Wake County Superior Court.
The judges’ order blocks the state Senate from enforcing the cabinet confirmations law, at least until Friday, when another hearing the case is scheduled. A full trial on the case is expected to be held in March.

The senators, you see, were holding confirmation hearings on one of Cooper’s cabinet appointees, even though the law authorizing a legislative role in cabinet appointments was being challenged in the courts.

Like their dear leader in Washington, North Carolina Republicans are quick to blast activist judges for interfering with their plans:

“In a gross misreading of the Constitution and a blatant overstep of their constitutional authority, three Superior Court judges attempted to dictate to the legislature when it could or could not hold committee meetings and what it could or could not consider in those meetings,” Republican state Senator Phil Berger said in a statement Tuesday night. “This unprecedented move would be like the legislature telling a judge what jurors to pick to decide a case. Judges are not legislators, and if these three men want to make laws, they should hang up their robes and run for a legislative seat.”

This whining is pretty hilarious coming from people who got the outgoing governor to sign the bill reducing his successor’s powers as he was packing up his office after refusing to accept his defeat for the longest time. There is an ancient principle of law holding that even people with righteous grievances should not come to the courts for relief with dirty hands. That would seem to apply abundantly to North Carolina’s legislative leaders.

Judges Halt N.C. GOP Legislators in Power-Grab Case