RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — The trial court in North Carolina’s ongoing redistricting dispute has named three special masters to oversee the review of new maps being drawn by the General Assembly – and the group has a distinct Triad flavor.
The NC Supreme Court had ordered special masters to be appointed when it threw out maps created in November by legislators and ordered redraws.
Those appointments fell to the 3-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court that had ruled in the case called “Harper v. Hall” that the General Assembly was guilty of extreme partisan gerrymandering but that the constitution didn’t define how much partisan gerrymandering was extreme.
Justices, in a 4-3 vote, sided with the plaintiffs from the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, Common Cause and Rebecca Harper et al and ordered new maps that would more balance the potential election of both Republicans and Democrats.
The courts invited all interested parties to suggest names and qualifications for special master, and in a written order issued late Wednesday named Robert H. Edmunds Jr., Thomas W. Ross and Robert F. Orr.
Edmunds began his legal career as an assistant district attorney in Guilford County and later as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina before being appointed U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina in 1986. He later was elected to both the North Carolina Court of Appeals and, in 2000, the Supreme Court. He retired in 2016 to private practice.
Ross, born and raised in Greensboro, was a superior court judge for 17 years, served as president of Davidson College and then from 2011-2016 led the University of North Carolina system. He most recently was president of the Volcker Alliance, a nonpartisan organization formed to address public policy.
Orr was appointed as a judge to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 1986 and then elected twice to that court. In 1994 he was elected to the Supreme Court and retired in 2004. He headed the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law before returning to private practice.
In its written order the court said it was “satisfied that these three former jurists of our appellate and trial courts have the requisite qualifications and experience to serve as Special Masters in this matter, have no apparent conflicts of interest, and have the time available to complete the work required by their appointment as Special Masters in this matter.”