RHINO TIMES | Thursday, November 2, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com
County Says It Shouldn’t Have to Pay $600K
for City Redistricting Lawsuit
by Scott D. Yost
The Southern Coalition for
Social Justice is attempting
to collect more than $600,000
in legal fees from the Guilford
County Board of Elections, but
a new court filing from Guilford
County in response to that
suit argues that the lawsuit
is completely baseless and
it would be totally unjust for
the Board of Elections to be
forced to pay attorney’s fees
for a 2015 redistricting case it
wanted nothing to do with in
the first place.
Guilford County Attorney Mark
Payne said that, in this case, the Board
of Elections has just about the best
defense anyone could ask for – the
board wasn’t in any way responsible
for the State of North Carolina’s
redistricting of the City of Greensboro
that brought about the initial suit for
which the coalition is asking for a
reimbursement of attorney’s fees.
“To me, it’s manifestly obvious that it
is not just to require an innocent party
to pay for the sins of somebody else,”
Guilford County’s brief states that, in
the current case, the Board of Elections
is “faced with the almost unique
circumstance where the Court and both
parties have jointly acknowledged that
Defendant GC BOE [Guilford County
Board of Elections] violated no one’s
civil rights, committed no unlawful
acts, and, in fact, did not engage in
any of the actions complained of in
Plaintiffs’ Complaint and subsequent
The Southern Coalition’s suit against
the Board of Elections calls for the
board to pay the coalition $602,000
in legal fees and related costs that
the coalition claims it incurred in the
redistricting case that overturned the
State of North Carolina’s redistricting
In that redistricting, which the
coalition’s current lawsuit stems from,
the state changed the number of
Greensboro City Council districts from
five to eight and eliminated the atlarge
council seats – a change that,
if implemented, would have made the
Greensboro City Council similar to that
of the City of Winston-Salem.
Guilford County could have asked
the state to step in and defend the
lawsuit, but, instead, the county opted
to mount no defense. In April 2017, in
US District Court for the Middle District
of North Carolina, District Court Judge
Catherine Eagles found in favor of
Greensboro and the coalition.
Even though the real complaint was
against the state, the coalition filed
its suit against the Guilford County
Board of Elections because that is
the body that conducts and oversees
elections in Guilford County. Four
months ago, the coalition filed a new
suit in an attempt to collect attorney’s
fees the coalition incurred in that case.
When the lawsuit to collect the fees
from Guilford County was filed, some
Guilford County commissioners were
outraged. They called the suit “nuts”
and “morally reprehensible” – however,
soon the only important question will
be what the court thinks about it.
Chairman of the Guilford County
Board of Education Alan Duncan, a
high-profile Greensboro attorney, has
been hired by Guilford County to aid in
its defense. Duncan also signed the
new court filing along with Payne.
Payne said he believes the
document lays out a highly compelling
case of why the county shouldn’t have
to pay the coalition’s costs.
“The rule is the party that prevails
in a civil rights case to protect citizens
will get attorneys’ fees unless special
(continued on next page)
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