From today’s New York Times:
It is the state that put the hyper in partisan politics, setting the blunt-force standard for battles over voting rights and gerrymanders that are now fracturing states nationwide.
So it is unsurprising that North Carolina’s latest battle, over new political maps that decisively favor Republicans, is unfolding in what has become an increasingly contested and influential battlefield in American governance: the State Supreme Court.
The court meets on Wednesday to consider whether a map drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature that gives as many as 11 of 14 seats in the next Congress to Republicans — in a state almost evenly divided politically — violates the State Constitution. Similarly lopsided state legislative maps are also being contested.
But for weeks, both sides of a lawsuit have been waging an extraordinary battle over whether three of the court’s seven justices should even hear the case. Atop that, an influential former chairman of the state Republican Party has suggested that the legislature could impeach some Democratic justices, a move that could remove them from the bench until their fates were decided.
The central issue — whether familial, political or personal relationships have rendered the justices unfit to decide the case — is hardly frivolous. But the subtext is hard to ignore: The Supreme Court has a one-justice Democratic majority that could well invalidate the Republican-drawn maps. Knocking justices off the case could change that calculus.
“I think we’re at the brass-knuckles level of political fighting in this state,” said Michael Bitzer, a scholar of North Carolina politics at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. “It is a microcosm of the partisan polarization that I think we’re all experiencing. It’s just that here, it’s on steroids.”
It also is a reminder that for all the attention on the U.S. Supreme Court this week after Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced his retirement, it is in Supreme Courts in states like North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio that many of the most explosive questions about the condition of American democracy are playing out.
Read the complete story here.