Supreme Court to consider whether North Carolina legislators can intervene to defend state’s voter ID law

The Supreme Court agreed to hear Berger v. North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. SCOTUSblog’s page on the case is here. The NAACP challenged North Carolina’s voter identification law in federal court. Republican legislative leaders, doubtful that the Democratic attorney general would adequately represent the state’s interests, moved to intervene (which state law authorizes them to do). The district court rejected the motion to intervene, finding that the state’s interests were already adequately represented. A panel of the Fourth Circuit reversed, then the Fourth Circuit en banc reversed that panel decision and affirmed the district court.

As state legislatures (or legislators) and executives fight about the implementation or defense of election laws, this case is one to watch. Petitioners framed the question as “whether a state agent authorized by state law to defend the State’s interest in litigation must overcome a presumption of adequate representation to intervene as of right in a case in which a state official is a defendant.” Respondents, in contrast, framed the question as “whether state officials must overcome a presumption of adequate representation to intervene as of right when they share the same ultimate objective as existing state defendants and those defendants are already adequately defending the challenged law.” It’s a seemingly-technical rule of which parties may participate in the case. But it could significantly affect how litigation plays out in the lower courts surrounding election law (and other) controversies in the future.

(For more, see Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson’s piece over at Bloomberg.)

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