NC: Despite House rejection twice, Senate passes for a fourth time bill to require three-judge panels to declare laws unconstitutional

The North Carolina Senate’s anger over having laws enacted by the legislature struck down by trial judges has now resulted in at least four separate efforts to require constitutional challenges to state laws be put before three-judge trial panels. Thus far, the House has either rejected or deferred the efforts. As background, the Senate’s anger appears to stem from a recent decision by a trial judge striking down a 2013 NC law that would strip teachers of tenure in exchange for raises.

  1. The first iteration of the plan came as part of the Senate’s budget proposal (SB 744) and was effectively rejected by the House.
  2. The second iteration of the plan came June 11 as part of a bill dealing with reforms to the state’s tort/consumer protection laws (SB 648). On June 25, a House committee amended out the provision and the full House sent the bill back to the Senate later that day without the three-judge panel provision.
  3. The third iteration came June 17 as part of SB 853, a bill to change the way the state’s business courts functioned. The House has so far failed to move on that bill.
  4. The fourth and latest iteration came June 25 as an amendment in HB 189, a House bill in the Senate that originally addressed the issue of wage withholding for child support payments. Not only did the Senate amendment include changes to the business courts (similar if not identical to SB 853) but it once again insisted on the use of three-judge panels for declaring laws unconstitutional.