‘Not Based On Law’: NC Court of Appeals Overturns Activist Judge, Upholds Voter ID, Tax Cap Amendments

RALEIGH – The N.C. Court of Appeals has upheld the constitutionality of Voter ID and tax cap amendments, reversing a lower court ruling that deemed the amendments null and void.

Some time ago, a Wake County Superior Court Judge showed just how far he was willing to pervert the role of the judiciary to advance the Left’s political agenda when he ruled that Voter ID and income tax cap amendments to the N.C. Constitution were unconstitutional.

He did so by agreeing with the plaintiff NAACP argument that the amendments referenda were put on the ballot by a N.C. General Assembly that was illegitimate on account of gerrymandering. If the legislature is illegitimate; all the legislation must be illegitimate, null, and void, ruled the activist judge.

A three-judge panel from the N.C. Court of Appeals, though, has now rejected and reversed the lower court ruling, voting 2-1 to uphold the Voter ID and tax cap amendments.

Writing for the majority, Appeals Court Judge Chris Dillon pointed out that the judiciary has no such power to nullify the constitutional powers of legislatures:

“We conclude that the Superior Court erred in holding that our General Assembly lost its power granted by our state constitution, while retaining other powers, simply because a federal court had determined that the maps contained too many majority-minority districts, such that some members elected to that body were from districts that were illegally gerrymandered based on race.  It is simply beyond our power to thwart the otherwise lawful exercise of constitutional power by our legislative branch to pass bills proposing amendments. Accordingly, we reverse the order of the superior court and declare the challenged constitutional amendments duly ratified by the people to be valid.”

Judge Stroud, concurring with Judge Dillon, wrote that he needs even less to overturn the lower court’s ridiculous ruling, and effectively calls out the lower court judge for his political activism:

“I concur in the result reached by majority opinion but write separately because I would reach the same result on a more limited basis. This Court is “an error correcting body, not a policy-making or law-making one.” […] Our role is to review the trial court’s order to determine if the ruling is supported by existing precedential law as stated in North Carolina’s Constitution, caselaw, or statutes. […] Neither this Court nor the trial court has the authority to declare new law which suits our own policy preferences. […] In our role as an error-correcting court, this Court has no power to affirm the trial court’s order because it is not based upon law.”

Stroud went on to state the lower court’s ruling would create chaos, as its (bad) argument calls into question every single action of the relevant General Assembly.

His is a pretty strong rebuke of the lower court ruling and it gets to the heart of an issue plaguing different courts for years — judges that are inclined to rule in favor of their own policy preferences, rather than honest and textual interpretation of the constitutional meaning and relevant precedent.

Yet, one of the Appeals Court judges dissented, writing as if they wished to be a prime example of what the majority determines is NOT OKAY, by backing the idea that the policy implications are too great for an activist court not to step in.

Judge Young writes:

“[…]This case presents a compelling issue of first impression before this Court, one which, due to its subject matter, demands the utmost attention and scrutiny. At issue is a narrow question, but one vital to our democracy: Can a legislature, which has been held to be unconstitutionally formed due to unlawful gerrymandering, act to amend the North Carolina Constitution?

The ramifications of such an act are clear. If an unlawfully-formed legislature could indeed amend the Constitution, it could do so to grant itself the veneer of legitimacy. It could seek, by offering amendments for public approval, to ratify and make lawful its own unlawful existence. Such an act would necessarily be abhorrent to all principles of democracy. […]”

Ah, the exaltation of the ‘principles of democracy’ while serving as a judge in a Constitutional Republic. The perspective of Judge Young is pretty transparent here, brazenly asserting that the judiciary has a role in answering this political questions, and relying on a giant omission to support their own activist inclinations. That giant omission is the fact that, even with language and balloting bills passed by the legislature in question, the decisions to approve and add the amendments to the N.C. Constitution were made BY THE PEOPLE.

One wonders if Judge Young realized the irony in speaking of ‘principles of Democracy,’ while in the same breath declaring the desire to nullify a clear majority of voters on this particular issue.

Unfortunately, there happen to be a lot more judges like Young on the N.C. Supreme Court, which is where the case may ultimately head. That high court has a 6-1 majority of Leftist judges, with documented social justice warriors that have openly fought against this very issue politically. That’s why those in support of the NAACP’s case are unfazed by what they perceive as a bump in the road of ‘Sue til Blue’ — they know it’s going to a Supreme Court full of judges that want to help advance their politics.

It’s telling that some of those supporters, like the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has NOTHING to do with voter ID or tax caps, are so engaged with this case. That’s because it’s a case about more than Voter ID, or tax caps, or gerrymandering; it’s a case about the fundamentals of the roles and powers of our branches of government and the power of the People themselves.

Now, due to the other lawsuits ongoing, and the proximity of the language, Voter ID will not be required in November. Yet, it is very relevant for November. If there is any hope of avoiding a North Carolina judiciary that bends over backward to help the Left enact their agenda, we all need to make sure that we research and elect conservative judges to benches of courts all over the state.

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