A federal judge ruled for the city Thursday, granting a permanent injunction against a new state law that remakes the City Council. That means the law will not go into effect for this City Council election cycle. Its ultimate fate will be decided at a future trial to take place before the 2017 election. Judge Catherine Eagles heard arguments for nearly two hours in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro before making a ruling. “It appears … that the new statute deprives Greensboro voters, alone among municipal voters in the state, of the right to change the city’s municipal government by referendum … without a rational basis,” Eagles wrote in her order Thursday. “The plaintiffs would suffer irreparable harm should the 2015 election go forward under the new law.”
… At issue in the lawsuit: A law passed by the General Assembly earlier this month that redraws Greensboro’s City Council districts. The law did away with at-large representation, created a council of eight members elected from districts and a mayor chosen by the entire city. Under the new law, the mayor wouldn’t have voted except in the case of a tie or in some personnel matters. The law also extended council terms from two years to four, moved the election to October, with a November runoff, and prevented the city from altering its form of government or changing the council district lines. That made Greensboro the only municipality in the state without that ability.
The city sued over the law, arguing that by singling Greensboro out, the law violated provisions of the North Carolina and U.S. constitutions that guarantee equal protection.
Councilman Justin Outling, a lawyer, said it was a strong argument that ultimately won the day. “The judge recognized the validity of our claims with regard to the law and its discrimination against Greensboro’s residents,” Outling said. “Certainly the General Assembly’s actions were unfair to the citizens of Greensboro, who deserve better. That conclusion was supported by the judge today.”