RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A panel of North Carolina judges appears skeptical that Republican legislators acted constitutionally by suddenly adopting a series of new laws undercutting the governor's authority now that a Democrat has the job.

The three-judge panel spent five hours on Tuesday listening to lawyers for Gov. Roy Cooper and the state's legislative leaders.

Judge Jesse Caldwell says courts sometimes need to pull back the curtain on the motivation behind laws. He and other judges peppered lawyers for GOP lawmakers with questions, asking why the laws were passed two weeks before Cooper took office.

The lawmakers' lawyer, attorney Noah Huffstetler, said in response that the clash is about powerful people maneuvering for political advantage, masquerading as a lawsuit over separation of government powers.

The laws give the GOP-led Senate authority over the governor's picks to lead state agencies, hire employees and other measures.

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