State Supreme Court won't move elections ruling quickly

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RALEIGH (AP) — The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday refused Gov. Roy Cooper's requests to accelerate legal action in a power struggle with Republican legislators.

In one-sentence denials without explanation, the court denied motions by Cooper's attorneys in litigation challenging the composition of the state elections and ethics board. The legal action stems from the justices' earlier ruling favoring Cooper.

His lawyers have said granting their motions would have helped seat a new elections board quickly - potentially under old rules favoring him.

Attorneys for Republican legislators had urged the justices to reject the motions and let the case work its way back down through the judicial system at the normal pace. The denials mean the 4-3 ruling favoring Cooper now won't be officially forwarded to a lower court until Feb. 15, three days after candidate filing begins for legislative, congressional and other seats this year.

The majority of justices found that a law creating a combined state elections and ethics board, passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, wrongly prevented Cooper from performing his executive duties effectively by requiring him to choose half of the combined board from a list of GOP-recommended appointees.

The lower court - a three-judge panel that originally heard Cooper's lawsuit - will review the Supreme Court decision and decide how the majority opinion will affect laws the GOP-controlled General Assembly approved last spring.

There are currently no board members in place, but staff members are still performing their duties. Cooper said this week the law should revert to what it was during the 2016 election, when there were separate boards.

Under that format, Cooper appointed a majority to the election panel, which can be the final arbiter in campaign finance investigations and local voting site decisions.

Some Republican legislators would prefer keeping elections and ethics functions together in a retooled combined board.

Writing to the Supreme Court on Thursday, lawyers for Republican legislators said the justices "appropriately left the creation of a solution to the General Assembly."

"Enactment of new law is the only workable remedy in the circumstances of this case" and not "gubernatorial or judicial fiat," attorney Martin Warf wrote in asking the court to reject Cooper's motions.