Friday marks the first court proceeding for a pair of legal challenges to the state's new redistricting maps.
A three-judge panel will hold a 10 a.m. hearing at Campbell Law School in Raleigh to decide what the timeline for the challenges will be, and whether the two lawsuits against the maps should be combined into one case.
The plaintiffs challenging the maps want the process to move quickly. They're asking the panel to rule on the maps by or before Feb 13th, the beginning of the 2012 filing period. That way, if the panel rejects the maps, new ones could be drawn before the election.
Attorneys for the state say that's unrealistic. They say it'll take several months to prepare their cases. They're arguing that the 2012 elections could take place as scheduled under the new maps while the challenge goes on in court.
The three judges named to the panel are Wake County Judge Paul Ridgeway (presiding), Halifax County Judge Alma Hinton, and Iredell County Judge Joseph Crosswhite.
Two sets of attorneys will defend the Republican-drawn maps: Alec Peters and Susan Nichols from the Attorney General's office will argue on behalf of all defendants, while redistricting expert Thomas Farr will appear as independent counsel to GOP lawmakers. He may be joined by Phil Strach, also with Ogletree Deakins.
On the other side of the courtroom, Eddie Speas and John O’Hale from Poyner Spruill will be arguing for the Dickson v. Rucho plaintiffs, while Southern Coalition for Social Justice director Anita Earls and attorney Adam Stein will represent the NAACP, League of Women Voters, and other plaintiffs in the NAACP et al. v. North Carolina lawsuit.
Judge Ridgeway couldn't say whether the panel will rule from the bench tomorrow. It's more likely they'll release a ruling sometime in the next few days.