U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles has refused a request to hold a crucial hearing in North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering case two weeks sooner than scheduled. Ruling on behalf of the 3-judge panel overseeing the lawsuit, Eagles said the Republican legislators were seeking to “impose their own expedited schedule on the court, the special master and other parties at virtually the last moment.” “The court anticipates that the January 5 hearing will begin with a short presentation by the special master as to his recommendations,” Eagle said in the order. “Thereafter, each side will have one hour to present oral argument in support of their position.” Representing current and former Republican leaders in the General Assembly, Raleigh lawyer Phillip Strach filed a petition earlier this week to advance the Jan. 5 hearing by at least two weeks.
Strach asked that Eagles and the two other federal judges presiding over the lawsuit brought by 31 protesting voters reschedule the hearing “on or before” Dec. 22, citing the time pressure of the approaching 2018 election cycle.
Strach said the Republican-led legislature needed time for a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or to take action on its own to fix any problems with state House and Senate districts.