Legislators Fire Josh Stein After He Refuses to Appeal Felon Voting Court Decision

Timing of 11th-hour court ruling on felon voting lawsuit means an appeal must be submitted immediately

Legislators today asked their lawyer, Attorney General Josh Stein, to appeal, but he refused

Legislators informed Stein moments ago that he’s fired. A new law firm will pick up the case and file an immediate stay pending appeal.

Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers fired Attorney General Josh Stein after he refused to appeal a case on their behalf.

What’s Going On?

The North Carolina Constitution stipulates that felons cannot ever vote unless the legislature adopts a law to re-enfranchise them. In 1973, Democrats in the legislature passed such a law outlining when and how felons can regain the right to vote.

More than a year ago, a group filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn that 1973 law. The suit was dormant for most of the year, until earlier this month a court decided to fast-track the case. The trial ended last week and the court verbally issued its decision this morning, but declined to release a written opinion.

The 2–1 decision effectively substitutes the preferred policy outcome of two judges for the policy passed into law by the legislature in 1973.

Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke) said, “This law, passed by a Democrat-led legislature 50 years ago, provides a path for felons to regain voting rights. If a judge prefers a different path to regaining those rights, then he or she should run for the General Assembly and propose that path. Judges aren’t supposed to be oligarchs who issue whatever decrees they think best.”

Today is also the deadline for the N.C. State Board of Elections to finalize its materials for the 2021 election, meaning an appeal of the court’s decision must be filed immediately.

Thus, the legislature is confronted with a court order that hasn’t been made public and a time pressure that’s almost impossible to meet.

Attorney General Josh Stein

Given the time pressure, legislative leaders today asked their lawyer, Attorney General Josh Stein, to immediately appeal the judge’s determination. Stein refused, citing an odd technicality that his office says forbids him from appealing a judge’s ruling without a written opinion.

Legislative leaders fired Stein for refusing to perform his duties (read the letter to Stein here).

The legislature will now engage a law firm for representation. They intend to file a stay pending appeal of the court’s ruling as soon as practicable.

The official Medium account for N.C. Senate Leader Phil Berger’s press office.