A Superior Court judge rejected Tuesday a request from North Carolina’s lieutenant governor and legislative leaders to dismiss a lawsuit accusing them of violating the state Constitution when they hastily called a special session in December to consider laws that transform state government. Judge W. Osmond Smith III ruled instead that the lawsuit filed this spring by Common Cause and 10 North Carolina residents should be heard by a three-judge panel tasked with hearing any constitutional challenges to laws adopted by the General Assembly. The nonpartisan, good-government advocacy group contends that Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, president of the state Senate, Phil Berger, president pro tempore of the state Senate, and Tim Moore, speaker of the state House of Representatives, violated North Carolinians’ rights when they took up bills in a three-day session in December without laying out to the public what was on the agenda.
The lawsuit also contends that the elected officials did not provide the advance notice necessary to give the people affected an opportunity to “instruct their representatives.”
The special session resulted in two laws that shifted long-held appointment powers from the governor’s office to legislators, shifted some oversight of the state schools from the state board of education to the elected superintendent and overhauled the makeup of the state board of elections, ethics commission and county elections boards.
Those changes have been challenged in separate lawsuits filed by the governor and others.