Moore v. Harper petitioners, respondents submit briefs regarding SCOTUS’ next steps after North Carolina’s highest court re-hears case

The parties in Moore v. Harper filed supplemental briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) on March 20 at SCOTUS’ request after the North Carolina Supreme Court announced it would re-hear the case. Joseph Ax at Reuters wrote, “If the justices decide they no longer have jurisdiction, they could dismiss the case without issuing a ruling.”

Moore v. Harper is a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 7, 2022, concerning the elections clause in the U.S. Constitution and whether that document empowers state legislatures alone to regulate federal elections without oversight from state courts. North Carolina House Speaker Timothy Moore (R) brought the case before SCOTUS after the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in February 2022 that the congressional boundaries the Republican-controlled legislature adopted in November 2021 were unconstitutional.

After the state supreme court overturned the original congressional district boundaries, it remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. In February 2022, the Wake County Superior Court adopted congressional districts that three court-appointed former judges had adopted. The state used those districts for the 2022 elections.

As a result of the 2022 elections, the North Carolina Supreme Court changed partisan control from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 Republican majority. In February 2023, that court agreed to re-hear its decision overturning the district boundaries.

Amy Howe wrote at SCOTUSBlog that “Lawyers for those legislators [that brought the case] told the justices…that although the North Carolina Supreme Court is reconsidering part of its 2022 ruling, the Supreme Court should nonetheless decide the case before it. Lawyers for one group of challengers, Common Cause, agreed, while other challengers urged the justices to dismiss the case.”

The legislators’ brief argued, “the North Carolina Supreme Court decided Petitioners’ Elections Clause claim on the merits, concluding that Petitioners’ original congressional redistricting map could be invalidated by the North Carolina courts…That decision rendered a final judgment as to the use of the original map and the lower courts’ authority to draw a new one, and no further decision is possible in the North Carolina courts with respect to that judgment.”

Attorneys representing the state of North Carolina wrote in their brief, “The State’s 2022 congressional elections have already taken place under the state court’s interim map, and Petitioners will suffer no prejudice from letting the ordinary appeals process play out…Although the Court has already received briefing and heard oral argument in this case…The decisions on review are nonfinal, and this Court should therefore dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.”

The North Carolina Supreme Court re-heard oral arguments in Moore v. Harper on March 14.

Reuters’ Ax wrote that the congressional boundaries that the state supreme court overturned “would likely have secured 11 of the state’s 14 congressional seats for Republicans.” In the 2022 elections, Republicans and Democrats won seven U.S. House districts each.

Additional reading: