Attorneys argue for Newby not to recuse himself
RALEIGH — A North Carolina Supreme Court judge shouldn't be forced to the sidelines in a lawsuit challenging political districts favoring Republican politicians even though his re-election relied heavily on support from GOP-aligned outside groups, attorneys said Monday.
The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP and other groups last month asked for Justice Paul Newby to stay out of the Supreme Court's decision on 2011 congressional and state legislative maps that they contend were illegally gerrymandered to favor GOP candidates.
Newby, a registered Republican, was trailing his challenger, Appeals Court Judge Sam J. Ervin IV, in polls taken in the weeks before the Nov. 6 election. That gap narrowed as a political action committee named the North Carolina Judicial Coalition spent more than $1.9 million on television spots supporting Newby and attacking Ervin in the final weeks of the race.
About $1.2 million of that money came from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based group described as providing direct technical assistance to the North Carolina Republicans who drafted the legislative maps at issue, said lawyers who urged Newby's recusal.
The money spent during the campaign by outside groups doesn't mean Newby's fairness should be doubted, lawyers for GOP state House Speaker Thom Tillis, Senate leader Phil Berger and their top map-makers countered.
"The recusal standard plaintiffs urge the court to adopt here is simply unworkable and fraught with problems," wrote attorneys Thomas Farr and Phillip Strach, who are working with Attorney General Roy Cooper's office to defend the maps. "It would require each member of the court to research whether every party or attorney who appears before them had ever expended money on his or her behalf during a previous campaign or contributed money to an independent expenditure committee that did."
An outside group in 2006's Supreme Court elections reported spending more than $259,000 to help three sitting justices and Chief Justice Sarah Parker win, Farr and Strach said. FairJudges.Net received most of its money from Democrats, and a FairJudges.Net leader is a former executive director of the state Democratic Party.
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