By Associated Press - Wednesday, January 4, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Lawsuits challenging North Carolina laws approved last month by Republican legislators that could weaken powers of new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will be heard by separate three-judge panels.

Chief Justice Mark Martin assigned three Superior Court judges each to cases challenging the constitutionality of two laws. One shifts power from the State Board of Education to the superintendent of public instruction. The other merges the State Board of Elections and State Ethics Commission.

A trial judge last week heard both matters and temporarily prevented the laws from being enforced. Now the panels will decide whether those laws should be blocked for longer.

One of the panels will hear the elections and ethics matter Thursday. The other panel will convene on the education lawsuit Friday in the same Wake County courtroom.

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