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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — The pace and method for refereeing lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s redrawn legislative and congressional seats are the focus of the first court hearing on the Republican-written redistricting plans.

A three-judge panel scheduled a Friday hearing to decide whether to consolidate two lawsuits challenging the maps and to consider a timetable to hear the cases.

Attorneys for the advocacy groups and Democratic elected officials who sued last month want rulings by mid-February so any disruptions to the 2012 elections would be minimized. State attorneys defending the maps say they need several additional months to build their defense.

GOP legislative leaders drew maps they say comply with federal anti-discrimination law and previous court rulings. Democrats argue the boundaries are unlawful by resegregating communities and splitting too many voting precincts.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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