By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - A three-judge panel has sided at least temporarily with North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper in his fight against
a Republican-backed attempt to curtail his powers by requiring legislative confirmation of cabinet appointments.
The law was among a series of measures approved by lawmakers in December limiting Cooper's executive authority after he defeated incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory.
Cooper sued to block it, arguing that requiring Senate consent to his cabinet secretaries was unprecedented and unconstitutional.
In an order Tuesday evening, the trio of state judges said the governor was likely to succeed in his challenge.
"The court is absolutely correct in their decision and should not be intimidated by threats from legislative leaders," Cooper said in a statement on Wednesday.
Eight of the 10 cabinet secretaries for the state have been appointed and sworn in.
The temporary restraining order halted a hearing set for Wednesday to review Cooper's appointee for secretary of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Republican lawmakers vowed they would eventually meet to review the cabinet members' qualifications and potential conflicts of interests.
Republicans have said such confirmation hearings were lawful and would serve as a check on executive power.
Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, said the judges were legislating from the bench and called on them to reverse their order.
"In a gross misreading of the Constitution and a blatant overstep of their Constitutional authority, three Superior Court judges attempted to dictate to the legislature when it could or could not hold committee meetings and what it could or could not consider in those meetings," the lawmakers said in a joint statement.
"If these three men want to make laws, they should hang up their robes and run for a legislative seat."
The judges said they would hear the governor's motion for a preliminary injunction on Friday. A trial on the issue is scheduled for March 7.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alistair Bell)