By Associated Press - Thursday, February 21, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina’s intermediate-level appeals court would remain at 15 judges under legislation approved by one General Assembly chamber days before litigation challenging a law reducing the roster to 12 judges goes before the state Supreme Court.

The state Senate voted unanimously on Thursday for the measure, which Republican sponsors say should end the lawsuit Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper filed challenging the 2017 law. A trial court panel actually upheld the law last spring, but the ultimate outcome following scheduled oral arguments March 4 before the Supreme Court was uncertain.

The current law eliminates three judgeships as vacancies arise. The first vacancy should happen next month following a judge’s age-mandated retirement.

The bill now goes to the House, where a key Republican has said he expects support from the GOP majority.

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