On December 22, 2021, a sitting North Carolina Congressman filed a federal lawsuit against the judges sitting on the North Carolina Supreme Court and the North Carolina Court of Appeals, seeking to require the public disclosure of the judges' voting records on certain petitions related to redistricting. Plaintiffs' claims center around the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court's orders issued in N.C. League of Conservation Voters, Inc. v. Hall and Harper v. Hall which suspended the candidate filing periods for congressional and state legislative races statewide so challenges to the maps could be resolved prior thereto. Those courts' orders kept the individual judges' votes confidential, and the plaintiff was denied access to the voting records on the grounds they were "confidential." Plaintiff asserts that he has a 1st Amendment right of public access to those voting records, citing the traditional release of such votes of individual appellate judges in the past, the qualified public right of access to civil actions under Article I, Section 18 of the N.C. Constitution, and the general provision for public access to court procceding records and other public records in N.C. Gen. Stat. Section 7A-109(a). Plaintiff also argues that no compelling, countervailing governmental interest exists to support protecting the confidential of appellate judges' votes on election suspension orders, and if there is, there are far less restrictive means of protecting any such interest. He is seeking either mandamus relief or preliminary and permanent injunctions barring the defendants from continuing their policies and practices resulting in denial of access to appellate judges' votes on any matter and a declaratory judgment that the defendants' policies and practices denying such access violates the U.S. Constitution's 1st Amendment.

On May 6, 2022, the court issued an order granting the defendants' motion to dismiss the case on the grounds the plaintiff's claims were barred by sovereign immunity and judicial immunity. The court also cited the abstention doctrine as an additional ground for dismissal, which protects state judicial processes from "intrusions" by federal courts.


U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division - No. 3:21-cv-679