Judges Stop NC Confirmation Hearings At Least For Now

Feb 8, 2017

On Wednesday, a North Carolina Senate committee was scheduled to do something of a first: confirm a member of a governor’s cabinet.

However, late Tuesday night a three-judge panel appears to have issued a temporary order to halt the proceeding.

Credit Scott*/Flickr

Here’s the background on the case:

In mid-December, when it became clear Roy Cooper had defeated Republican Governor Pat McCrory, the GOP-led General Assembly passed a series of laws to curtail the new Democratic governor’s power.

And one of those bills called for these Senate confirmation hearings to take place. At the time, GOP lawmakers pointed to a line in Article 3 of the North Carolina Constitution which reads

The governor shall nominate and by and with the advice and consent of a majority of the Senators appoint all officers whose appointments are not otherwise provided for.

It’s a clause seldom if ever used before.

Which is why Governor Roy Cooper took the General Assembly to court.

On Tuesday, three Superior Court judges heard arguments on the case. Cooper's attorneys argued the Senate is not authorized to engage in this process or pass on the governor’s appointments.

Lawyers for House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger countered by saying the legislature is simply exercising its rights to vet the appointments.

Then late Tuesday night, just hours before the first confirmation hearing was scheduled to begin, word a temporary restraining order had been issued came not from the court but from Moore and Berger.

The headline was blunt:

Legislative leaders to activist judges: If you want to make laws, run for the legislature.

The content of the press release was just as biting.

In a gross misreading of the Constitution and a blatant overstep of their Constitutional authority, three Superior Court judges attempted to dictate to the legislature when it could or could not hold committee meetings and what it could or could not consider in those meetings.

The case is again due to be argued on Friday when a court will consider a longer restraining order. And then again in March when the legality of the confirmation hearings as a whole will be discussed.