(CN) - A three-judge panel of federal judges on Thursday ruled that a special master should be brought in to redraw electoral districts previously found to discriminate against minorities.
The judges had been tasked with determining whether new maps redrawn by Republicans last summer fix problems with 28 electoral districts drawn in 2011 and later found to be racially gerrymandered and therefore unconstitutional.
Writing for the panel, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles said after their review she and her colleagues still had concerns about seven state House districts and two state Senate district that she said "either fail to remedy the identified constitutional violation or are otherwise legally unacceptable."
In an attempt to move the dispute over the district to a conclusion, the judges asked attorneys for the voter plaintiffs and the GOP lawmakers to chose three people both sides would trust to draw the map if the court decided it needed to take over the redistricting process.
But that bid for cooperation failed. Last week the attorneys told the court the two sides could not agree on a single name.
On Thursday Judge Eagles informed the parties that the court intends to appoint Stanford law professor Nathaniel Persily to review North Carolina''s newest legislative maps and, if necessary, help the judges redraw the lines in time for the 2018 election.
Persily has previously helped draw district likes for Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland and New York.
The court gave the attorneys two days to file an objection to Persily's appointment, and said if no valid objections are raised, it will issue a separate order formally appointing the special master and spelling out his duties and instructions. for any research assistants or advisors he needs to retain.
If he is hired, Persily will be paid $500 an hour for his services -- about half his normal rate, the court said -- and will also be compensated for his expenses and any research assistants and/or advisors he needs to hire.
Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement that "it has been shown time and again that the state legislature refuses to draw district lines that comply with the law."
"Our clients are hopeful that this process will result in fair districts for all North Carolinians," Earls said.
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