Judges halt hearings for North Carolina governor's cabinet members
Roy Cooper (Twitter)

A three-judge panel in North Carolina has temporarily blocked lawmakers from holding confirmation hearings for nominees to Democratic Governor Roy Cooper's cabinet, a ruling Republican leaders slammed as a "blatant overstep" of authority.

The judges said in their order Tuesday evening that Cooper was likely to succeed in his challenge of a measure legislators passed in December requiring state Senate confirmation of cabinet appointments.

The requirement was among a series of measures approved by the Republican-dominated legislature curtailing Cooper's executive authority after he defeated incumbent Republican Governor Pat McCrory last fall.

Republican leaders have said the changes were lawful and would serve as a check on executive power. Cooper said requiring Senate consent to his cabinet secretaries was unprecedented and unconstitutional.

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.

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."

Cooper's office could not be immediately reached for comment.

The judges said they would hear the governor's motion for preliminary injunction on Friday.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alistair Bell)