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Allison Riggs, attorney in major voting rights cases, appointed to NC Court of Appeals

Court-of-Appeals-Building.jpeg
Photo Courtesy of North Carolina Judicial Branch

Allison Riggs was sworn into the N.C. Court of Appeals on Jan. 1, filling a vacancy left by Richard Dietz, who was elected to the N.C. Supreme Court in November.

Riggs will hear her first case on Jan. 24 and work on a panel with Judges Fred Gore and newly-elected Michael Stading. Within the 15-judge court, panels are randomly assigned and rotated frequently to allow each judge to work with one another equally over time.

“I’m grateful for this chance to serve my state,” Riggs said in a video statement on Dec. 15.

N.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Stroud said the state Court of Appeals hears a wide variety of cases that are appealed from trial courts. Having judges with wide backgrounds benefits the court's ability to make sound decisions, she said. 

“I haven't worked with (Riggs) personally that much, but I would expect that just as we have had in the past, that we benefit from the experience of all of our judges,” Stroud said.

Prior to her appointment, Riggs worked as an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice where she served as the co-executive director and voting rights chief counsel. Riggs has led several voting rights cases with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and made two appearances at the U.S. Supreme Court arguing against gerrymandering.

Riggs served on the board of the national League of Women Voters until she resigned in December after being appointed to the state Court of Appeals.

Riggs served as the lead counsel for Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina, arguing that partisan gerrymandering claims should be allowed to be heard in federal court. 

Jo Nicholas, the president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, said Riggs was "in the fight" with the league from the beginning of the case.

“I think it's going to be good for North Carolina to have someone who has the expertise that she has with gerrymandering and looking at all sides of the situation since she is a league member,” Nicholas said. “She does look at both sides of everything.”

Although the League of Women Voters of North Carolina lost the case in the U.S. Supreme Court, Nicholas said Riggs worked with the league to plan activities locally to explain the impacts in ways community members could understand.

Until her appointment to the N.C. Court of Appeals, Riggs was also a lead litigator in Moore v. Harper, a U.S. Supreme Court case involving partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina.

Bob Phillips, the executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said the results of November's congressional elections were the most representative in North Carolina in a long time.

“It was a seven-seven split — it doesn't get any more competitive and even than that,"  Phillips said. "And, that is the result of the litigation that Allison was a part of and led."

Common Cause North Carolina was a plaintiff in Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina. Phillips said experience in front of the U.S. Supreme Court is a unique opportunity for lawyers — which will serve Riggs well moving forward. He said she has always been diligent and thorough, which he believes will serve her well on the court.

"There may not be a finer litigator on gerrymandering and redistricting in the country than Allison Riggs," Phillips said.

Riggs will serve on the state Court of Appeals until at least 2024 when she must win an election to keep her seat.

@torinewbyy

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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