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The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide two avenues for intervention. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2), a district court must permit intervention as a matter of right if the movant can demonstrate (1) an interest in the subject matter of the action; (2) that the protection of this interest would be impaired because of the action; and (3) that the applicant's interest is not adequately represented by existing parties to the litigation. If intervention of right is not warranted, a court may still allow an applicant to intervene permissively under Rule 24(b), although in that case the court must consider whether the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the original parties' rights.
Plaintiff abortion service providers challenged the constitutionality of the North Carolina "Woman's Right to Know Act," ("the Act"), a statute that required certain informed consent procedures prior to the performance of an abortion, N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 90-21.80 to -21.92. Although the North Carolina Attorney General actively sought to defend the statute, appellants—a group of pro-life medical professionals, women who have previously undergone abortions, and pregnancy counseling centers—filed a motion to intervene as defendants in the suit. The appellants conceded that they shared the same ultimate objective as the existing defendants. They merely disagreed with the Attorney General's reasonable litigation tactics. The district court denied the appellants’ motion, and they appealed.
Could the appellants intervene in the suit on the basis that they disagreed with the Attorney General's reasonable litigation tactics?
The denial of the appellants’ motion to intervene was affirmed. According to the court, it was not nonfeasance for the Attorney General to choose to litigate the merits of the Act through to final judgment rather than appeal a preliminary injunction. There was no error in the district court's denial of permissive intervention due to the delay in adjudication of the merits that would likely result from the addition of three groups of intervenors. The group could still seek leave to file amicus briefs.