(NOTE: SCSJ represents nonpartisan civil rights plaintiff groups in this lawsuit)
By GARY D. ROBERTSON — Associated Press
For the second time in less than a year, lawyers for Democratic voters as well as civil rights and other election advocacy groups have filed a motion seeking to force Associate Justice Paul Newby out of hearing the case.
The motion’s authors argue that previous court rulings and the judicial conduct code require Newby to withdraw from the case. A Republican group interested in retaining the maps approved by the legislature in 2011 gave more than $1 million to another group that in turn donated money to support Newby’s 2012 re-election.The justices denied a similar request last December as the state’s highest court weighed in on a conflict involving whether certain redistricting documents were protected by attorney-client privilege.
In July, a panel of three Superior Court judges upheld the constitutionality of the maps following a trial, rejecting arguments that they were drawn to weaken the political weight of black voters. The new boundaries enabled Republicans last year to pad their majorities in the state House and Senate and hold nine of the state’s 13 U.S. House seats.
“Where circumstances surrounding the recent election campaign have led to public questioning of the impartiality of the court’s ruling in a specific case pending before it, Justice Newby should recuse himself from further proceedings in this matter,” the 45-page motion read.
Newby said during the 2012 election he didn’t read press reports about donations and said his first term on the court shows he won’t be influenced by outside groups.
When the first recusal motion was filed last year, private attorneys representing leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature in redistricting said the outside spending didn’t mean Newby’s fairness should be doubted. They said the recusal standard offered by the other side was unworkable and would require extensive research by court members to find out who gave to which group.
The most recent motion was filed on the same day the attorneys turned in more than 300 pages of documents explaining why the maps should be struck down. State attorneys are expected to provide their own briefs. No date has been set on oral arguments by the Supreme Court.