The State Supreme Court’s Democratic majority may abandon legal procedure for the third time in two months by ordering the Republican-majority Court of Appeals out of a case.
The nakedly partisan maneuvering appears designed to fast-track politically charged cases to Democrats on the Supreme Court before the November elections, when observers expect Republicans to win a majority on the court.
It’s hard to fathom a better way to delegitimize the judiciary than justices abandoning legal procedure to render political decisions before they lose an election.
Regular legal procedure requires appeals of a trial court’s ruling to go to the Court of Appeals (which currently has a Republican majority), and then to the Supreme Court (which currently has a Democratic majority).
But in high-profile cases, including voter ID and the Leandro education funding lawsuit, the Supreme Court ordered parties to ignore the Court of Appeals and bring cases directly to them.
And now they may do it again. Lawyers affiliated with Marc Elias, who was recently sanctioned by a federal court for ethics violations, just won a lower court case in North Carolina involving voter registration for felons.
Those lawyers – who won the case – then fast-tracked the appeal to their own victory, asking the Supreme Court to sideline the Court of Appeals and hear the “appeal” as quickly as possible. (You can read all about it on Marc Elias’s website, which discusses the importance of democracy and the rule of law without an ounce of irony.)
The raw power strategy couldn’t be more obvious: Convince their political allies on the Supreme Court to affirm their victory before the high court’s majority changes, which means avoiding getting bogged down for months in the Republican-controlled Court of Appeals.
Why else would the winning side of a case fast-track an appeal to its own victory?
There’s a lot of talk among so-called “good government” advocates about the danger of abandoning democratic norms and the rule of law. Yet those same people are silent as their allies on the Supreme Court abandon legal procedure to usurp the power to decide charged cases before the November elections.
There may be some occasions when it is legally proper to expedite a case directly to the high court. Disliking the political makeup of the Court of Appeals is not among them, nor is concern for who might win the next election.