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North Carolina Superior Court judges in the January 2022 congressional and legislative redistricting trial. (WRAL screenshot) North Carolina Superior Court judges in the January 2022 congressional and legislative redistricting trial. (WRAL screenshot)

North Carolina Superior Court judges in the January 2022 congressional and legislative redistricting trial. (WRAL screenshot)

Paul Specht
By Paul Specht March 29, 2022

Budd exaggerates role of McCrory appointee in NC redistricting case

If Your Time is short

  • The Superior Court judge appointed by McCrory, A. Graham Shirley, ruled in favor of Republican legislators when the redistricting case was before his panel.
  • After the Democrat-led state Supreme Court overturned the lower court's decision, it ordered Republican legislators to redraw the maps and told the Superior Court panel to review the resubmissions.
  • Shirley rejected the Republican legislators' redrawn congressional map in favor of one drawn by redistricting consultants that boosted Democrats' odds of winning. The panel's choice was unanimous, meaning Shirley was not a swing vote nor was he the only Republican judge to reject the GOP-drawn congressional map.

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory may be Republican, but he indirectly helped Democrats in a recent North Carolina redistricting case, according to one of his political opponents.

McCrory is one of several Republicans hoping to replace Republican Sen. Richard Burr when he retires at the end of his term this year.

McCrory tweeted on March 21 that, if elected to the Senate, he would reject any "radical activist" judicial nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. His comments came the same day  

U.S. senators began confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.. 

McCrory’s tweet evoked a response from one of his Republican challengers, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd.

"He’s hoping NC Republicans will forget that when he was Governor, [McCrory] appointed the ‘Republican’ judge who sided with Democrats in the partisan Democrat lawsuit/power-grab over redistricting," Budd tweeted.

The tweet refers to the legal drama over North Carolina’s voting lines. State legislators drew new congressional and legislative districts last year, as required by law. Voting rights groups then sued legislative leaders, claiming they gerrymandered the maps to give the Republican Party an unconstitutional advantage.

State courts ultimately approved maps with more districts that were more favorable to the Democratic Party than previous iterations of the maps. 

So is it true that McCrory appointed a Republican who sided with liberal plaintiffs in the case? 

It’s true that McCrory appointed one of the Republican judges involved in the case. However, Budd’s tweet omits a lot of context and could mislead readers who are not well versed in the court system’s structure. And while the McCrory-appointed judge played a role in the maps that were ultimately enacted, he was not part of the state Supreme Court contingent that struck down the maps that were initially challenged.


Let’s review the major decisions that happened as the redistricting case worked its way through the courts.

Superior Court: A three-judge panel of two Republicans and a Democrat decided in favor of Republican legislators, ruling on Jan. 11 that they hadn’t violated state law by drawing election districts that offered their party a partisan advantage. 

The panel included two Republicans, including A. Graham Shirley, who was appointed by McCrory in 2015. Judges in North Carolina are typically elected, but seats can be filled if a vacancy arises. McCrory appointed Shirley to fill the vacancy left by retiring Judge Howard Manning Jr., according to The News & Observer. 

The panel’s ruling was appealed.

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North Carolina Supreme Court: The Democratic-majority high court ruled 4-3 on Feb. 4 to overturn the lower-court’s decision, ordering Republican legislators to redraw new districts because, in the majority’s view, they violated state law during last year’s mapmaking process. No Republicans voted in the majority. The ruling placed the three Superior Court judges in charge of reviewing the new map proposals. 

New voting maps enacted: This is where Budd’s claim comes in. After Republican legislators redrew both the legislative and congressional maps, the Superior Court panel accepted the revised legislative districts but rejected the Republicans’ proposed congressional map. 

Instead, the lower court judges recommended congressional maps drawn by independent redistricting experts. The state Supreme Court signed-off on both plans

Budd’s tweet describes Shirley’s involvement in a way that could give readers the wrong impression about his level of influence in the case. The tweet says McCrory appointed "the" Republican judge who sided with Democrats. 

The Superior Court’s decision to use the consultants’ congressional map, instead of the Republican proposal, was unanimous — and Shirley wasn’t the only Republican on the panel. Judge Nathaniel Poovey is also a Republican. 

Budd’s campaign stood by Budd’s tweet. 

"This unanimous decision handed over two, or possibly more, congressional seats to Democrats," Budd spokesman Jonathan Felts said. "Governor McCrory is making a big production of what he says he would do if elected to the U.S. Senate as it relates to judges, so let’s see … how those McCrory appointments are working out for conservatives in North Carolina."

After McCrory appointed Shirley in 2015, Shirley the next year ran unopposed to retain the seat and was elected.

U.S. Supreme Court: Republican legislators have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to get involved in the state’s redistricting case. The high court, which has a conservative majority, already voted 6-3 to reject Republican legislators’ request to halt the congressional maps drawn by consultants. Republican legislators are now petitioning the court to review the state Supreme Court’s actions to see if it violated the U.S. Constitution.

Our ruling

Budd said McCrory appointed "the Republican judge who sided with Democrats in the partisan Democrat lawsuit/power-grab over redistricting."

Budd accurately points out that McCrory appointed one of the Superior Court judges involved in a recent redistricting case, and that the judge signed off on congressional districts that are expected to elect more Democrats than previous maps would have.
However, Budd’s tweet excludes so many key details that it could give readers an inaccurate impression about the case and McCrory’s appointee.

When the redistricting case came before the Superior Court panel that included Shirley, he ruled with his colleagues that the process that led to the GOP-drawn maps didn’t violate the state constitution. In other words, he ruled in favor of Republican legislators.

After the state’s highest court ordered legislators to redraw election maps—and for the Superior Court panel to rule on those maps—Shirley rejected one of the Republicans’ redrawn maps. But he wasn’t the only Republican judge to do so—and he didn’t cast a deciding vote.

Finally, Budd’s tweet omits the fact that Shirley is currently serving at the will of North Carolina voters. He won an election in 2016, after McCrory appointed him.

Budd’s tweet has an element of truth. But it leaves out a lot of context and could give people the wrong impression about how the case played out. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Tweet by U.S. Rep. Ted Budd on March 21, 2022.

Email exchange with Jonathan Felts, spokesman for the Budd for U.S. Senate campaign.

Stories by WRAL, "Voting maps favorable to NC Republicans allowed to move forward, judges rule," posted Jan. 11, 2022; "North Carolina Supreme Court strikes down new voting maps," posted Feb. 4, 2022; "NC Supreme Court OK's new voting maps for 2022 election," posted Feb. 23, 2022; "US Supreme rejects NC GOP effort to halt congressional map," posted March 7, 2022; "North Carolina Republicans petition U.S. Supreme Court to review state redistricting decision," posted March 17, 2022.

Order on remedial North Carolina redistricting plans, issued by N.C. Superior Court judges A. Graham Shirley, Nathaniel Poovey, and Dawn Layton on Feb. 23, 2022.

Story by the News & Observer, "Graham Shirley is new Wake Superior Court judge," posted Sept. 9, 2015.

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Budd exaggerates role of McCrory appointee in NC redistricting case

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