legal battle over North Carolina’s redistricting maps will reach the state Supreme Court on Tuesday but the case is far from finished, as justices must first decide how much of the correspondence between mapmaking lawmakers and their lawyers should be disclosed. The state’s highest court will hear oral arguments about whether the public should learn about legal advice outside attorneys gave to Republican legislative leaders on drawing General Assembly and congressional seat boundaries, getting them enacted and preparing for potential lawsuits. Civil rights and election reform groups as well as Democratic voters who sued in November to overturn the maps on constitutional and discrimination grounds have asked for records to attempt to buttress their case. They’ve already received hundreds of thousands of pages. Taxpayer-paid contract attorneys representing GOP lawmakers say some of their documents should remain confidential due to attorney-client privilege and other restrictions.
The plaintiffs argue that a 1983 state law requires the release of all redistricting documents created by legislative employees or other contract workers once the maps are approved. The voters and groups challenging the maps hope to bolster their lawsuits with more information about why the boundaries were drawn certain ways. “The overarching rule to apply is that open government laws are to be construed liberally in favor of access and that exemptions are to be construed narrowly,” Eddie Speas, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, wrote in a legal brief.