Motion filed to disqualify two special master assistants for illegal communications

From left, Superior Court Judges Nathaniel Poovey, Graham Shirley and Dawn Layton listen to testimony from Jowei Chen, a political scientist from the University of Michigan, not pictured, during a partisan gerrymandering trial over North Carolina's new political maps Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 at a courtroom at Campbell University School of Law in Raleigh, N.C. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — The legislative defendants in North Carolina’s combined redistricting case have filed a motion to dismiss two assistants hired by the three-person Special Master panel evaluating the remedial maps submitted on Friday, Feb. 18.

The motion says that Sam Wang and Tyler Jarvis, two of the four assistants, engaged in “substantive ex party communications” with the plaintiffs’ experts in the case. The legislative defendants were informed on Sunday, Feb. 20.

The contact, which occurred at nearly the same time on Friday, Feb. 18, asked for data and other information from experts hired by the plaintiffs.

Special Masters are forbidden from communicating with either the plaintiffs or defendants in the case. The legislative defendants said that, to the best of their knowledge, no contact occurred with experts hired to defend the 2021 maps.

In the court filing, the legislative defendants are asking to disqualify Wang and Jarvis as assistants, require any work product completed by the two to be destroyed, prohibit the special masters from considering any information or materials obtained by Wang and Jarvis, and disclose any other communications they have had with third parties.

For Wang, it is not the first instance of alleged tampering in a court-mandated redistricting process. He was involved in a controversial New Jersey case, where the Princeton Gerrymandering Project refused to disclose their models used to draw congressional districts in January.

The news report stated that “top funders to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project are major donors to Democratic candidates and committees, including contributors to four New Jersey Democratic House members who represent competitive districts and were huge stakeholders in the redistricting process.”

“These communications clearly violate the rules set forth by the trial court and call into question the neutrality of the special master teams,” said North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley. “The People of North Carolina deserve a judicial process free of bias and partisan schemes. Such clear examples of improper behavior damage confidence that these proceedings are fair and should be dealt with appropriately.”

The plaintiffs in the case have not responded to the motion as of 11:45 a.m.