Judges Block North Carolina Law Limiting Governor’s Powers

(CN) — A North Carolina court blocked efforts Wednesday  by the GOP-controlled state Senate’s to hold review hearings on cabinet appointments by newly elected Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

The law mandating the review and stripping the new governor of some of his powers was passed by the GOP-controlled legislature in December during an extraordinary and highly-controversial special session.

Among other things, the law requires Senate confirmation for the governor’s cabinet members, which previous governors have not needed.

The law was approved in December, two weeks before Gov. Cooper took over. Democrats criticized it as a partisan effort to undermine the new governor’s authority.

The ruling Tuesday night out of the Wake County Superior Court  put the law — and the confirmation process — on hold until another court hearing scheduled for Friday.

Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell III signed the temporary restraining order on behalf of a three-judge panel, finding that Cooper “has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of his challenge.”

Cooper, the ruling continues, “is likely to sustain irreparable harm unless a temporary restraining order is issued and, in the opinion of the Court, the issuance of a temporary restraining order is necessary for the protection of the Plaintiff’s rights during the court of this litigation.”

Cooper appointed eight of his 10 Cabinet members before the legislature came into session in January and they were sworn in. Cooper said they are the cabinet heads and are working at their jobs.

The Legislature called them acting heads and said that under the law they passed, they can be dismissed if the Senate does not confirm them.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger issued a joint statement Tuesday night condemning the decision, and saying it was “a blatant overstep of their constitutional authority.”

“Judges are not legislators, and if these three men want to make laws, they should hang up their robes and run for a legislative seat,” the Republican lawmakers said.

Moore and Berger contend the state Constitution gives the state Senate “advice and consent” powers over gubernatorial appointments.

They and their Republican colleagues maintain the public has the right to see a governor’s cabinet face questions in an open forum. They have scheduled hearings for Cooper’s eight picked that will extend through mid-March if they are allowed to go forward.

Cooper, the state’s former attorney general, insists the law is unconstitutional. He sued the legislative leaders shortly after he was sworn in as North Carolina’s governor in January.

On Tuesday night, Cooper praised the ruling and said the court “should not be intimidated by threats from legislative leaders.”

“We need to put these partisan confirmation games behind us” he said.

Among his legislative priorities is repealing of a GOP-promulgated law limiting LGBT rights and which public bathrooms transgender people can use, known as House Bill 2.

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