CoA ruling deals a blow to Debtor's Prison effect

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A reduction of excessive court costs is long overdue:

The Court of Appeals published a unanimous opinion this week holding that when multiple criminal charges arise from the same underlying event or transaction and are adjudicated together in the same hearing or trial, they are part of a single “criminal case” for purposes of assessing court costs.

The case stems from a Buncombe County incident – Dave Robert Rieger was pulled over for following another vehicle too closely and was ultimately arrested for possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia. He took his case to trial and was convicted of both charges. Because the state filed the charges against him in two separate charging documents, there were two separate judgments against him even though they were disposed of through the same trial. The judge imposed court costs in each of the two judgments, amounting to a total of nearly $800. The question to the three-judge appellate panel was whether Rieger experienced one criminal case or two.

At a recent local candidate event I was able to have a few words with a couple of judges and a District Attorney, and I mainly focused on court costs and high amounts of cash bail. Surprisingly enough, they were all concerned about this, and eager to talk about it (as opposed to ignoring it). We may be approaching a critical point in criminal justice reform, and it is much needed:

Friday News: Trying to pass?

TRUMP APPOINTEE FOR FEDERAL BENCH DOESN'T WANT TO ADMIT HE'S BLACK: Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said during his introduction that Myers would be “the first African American on his court.” Asked if he considered himself African American, Myers said, “I consider myself human. I consider myself human. Jamaican American. For some folks, it’s a really important thing for them. For me, I would really like to be considered on my own merits every step of the way.” Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, whose district covers much of Eastern North Carolina and is a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said after President Donald Trump nominated Myers that he wished Trump had taken the opportunity to diversify the bench. “Every African American I know is proud to make that identification as African American,” Butterfield told McClatchy last month. “If he is indeed African American, I would expect that he would be proud of it and say so.”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article235460432.html

Remembering the victims of the NC GOP's refusal to expand Medicaid

Not just an academic exercise, people are dying:

North Carolina’s Medicaid coverage gap looks like Brenda Pernell, who went by “Miss Brenda” to her students and, until a heart condition killed her in April at the age of 52, treated her high blood pressure with vinegar.

It looks like Jessica Jordan, who inherited her father’s blue eyes and her mother’s fiery hair and who, lacking the coverage to pay for mental health and substance abuse treatment, died from an accidental overdose last May at the age of 32.

If these women had lived in Virginia (or even West Virginia), they would likely still be alive. If they had lived in Louisiana or Arkansas, they would have had a much better chance. Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, still alive. But they didn't. They had the misfortune of living in a state that placed partisan politics above the value of their lives, health, and prosperity. And there are thousands more right behind them, facing deteriorating physical and economic health:

Thursday News: Privatization boondoggle

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TEST SCORES WORSEN AT FIRST SCHOOL TAKEN OVER BY CHARTER: More schools may be taken over by the state’s Innovative School District, even as a new report showed flat test scores and a variety of problems at the only school now in the controversial program. Southside Ashpole Elementary School in Robeson County ended the program’s first year with an “F” grade, not meeting academic growth and a drop in the percentage of students passing state exams. Some of the schools that fought to stay under local control have higher grades now than Southside, according to a report presented Wednesday to the State Board of Education. The Innovative School District was created by Republican state lawmakers in 2016 to take up to five low-performing elementary schools away from local school district control and turn them over to an outside group to run.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article235692682.html

Coal Ash Wednesday: Go get 'em, Avner

Duke professor to address EPA over coal ash deregulation:

Nearly six years after a busted drainage pipe at a Duke Energy coal ash containment pond turned the Dan River into an oily sludge, the Trump administration is considering a move to roll back some of the Obama-era rules that ban the disposal of coal ash in soil or pits and landfills that aren't lined to protect the environment.

At his Duke University lab, ABC11 caught up with the geochemistry professor headed to the EPA hearing about the issue scheduled for Wednesday morning. Avner Vengosh told ABC11 he's going in hopes of convincing the agency to keep the protections in place. "My coming to EPA is to bring the science," said Vengosh. "Demonstrating that putting coal ash without restrictions is a really bad idea."

Professor Vengosh and his graduate students at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment have done groundbreaking work on contaminants that threaten water quality. They're the ones who (finally) proved the Methane contamination of drinking water wells actually originated from the shale being fracked miles below, by looking at the isotopic signature. So we should all be inclined to pay attention to them on this as well:

Wednesday News: Cracks in the armor

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REPUBLICAN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS PUSH BERGER FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION: “We supported Medicaid expansion because our citizens need it. Did you know Senator that our poverty level is near 30%?” he continued. “Did you know that we have several hundred working adults with no means to have health care?” The decline of manufacturing left Graham County without a large private employer, Wiggins said. Given the dire circumstances, he said commissioners have to consider solutions that aren’t necessarily Republican ideas. “The reality is in places like Graham County,” Wiggins said, “a mom or dad working at McDonald’s or Wendy’s for just over minimum wage cannot afford $1,500 a month for insurance.” Wiggins concluded his letter by suggesting legislators don’t understand his county’s hardship. “You know Senator Berger,” he said. “for some people who have good paying jobs and good health insurance it is easy to say that those without health insurance just need to go to work, isn’t it?”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article235677772.html

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