While the North Carolina General Assembly considered new maps for electing its members in 2018, a panel of federal judges were in a courtroom less than half a mile away weighing the next steps for two of at least five lawsuits that have challenged redistricting plans from the past decade. Three judges rejected a request to delay trials in two lawsuits filed last year by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters accusing lawmakers of using blatant partisan gerrymandering in 2016 to draw the districts that elect members of Congress. Those maps were drawn to correct unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
Attorneys for the lawmakers argued that the judges should wait until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a case from Wisconsin which also will test the extent to which legislators across the country can draw election lines to benefit the party in power at the time. Philip Strach, a Raleigh attorney representing the Republican-led General Assembly, said a ruling in the Wisconsin case could have an impact on the North Carolina case.
U.S. District Judges W. Earl Britt, a Jimmy Carter appointee, and William L. Osteen Jr., a George W. Bush appointee, and 4th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court Judge James A. Wynn, a Barack Obama appointee, asked many questions of both sides throughout the hearing.