Everyone who's paying attention knows that control of the US Senate rests with the election here in North Carolina. Moderate Kay Hagan has her hands full with extremist Thom Tillis, a race that is being covered to death by media around the world. The stakes couldn't be higher.
And yet they are. Because there's an equally important election for the North Carolina Supreme Court, where Justice Robin Hudson is up against the dark lord, Art Pope. Having already acquired the legislature and the governor's office, Mr. Pope would have absolute control over the future of North Carolina with a hand-picked NC Supreme Court.
The recent retirement of Chief Justice Sarah Parker has left Robin Hudson as the highest-ranking woman in the entire NC court system. In addition, she is the senior Democrat on the NC Supreme Court. With her seat, justice truly hangs in the balance.
There is only one way to combat the millions the right wing is pouring into our state. Word of mouth. And no matter how much money you have or don't have, you do have an email list and a voice you can use.
1. A personal note to your friends is a powerful and motivating force. Here's what I'm saying to mine:
A three-judge appeals court panel rejected [the emergency] request [to disburse voucher funds] on Monday, saying it was premature to offer such a ruling without a written order from Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood.
In case anyone remained under the illusion that judicial elections in NC were actually non-partisan, like they are officially billed to be, former NC Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake shatters that illusion.
In a firey [sic] plea for money, I. Beverly Lake, a former chief justice of the state Supreme Court, is rallying support for Bob Hunter in his campaign for a seat on the high court.
Lake, who reached mandatory retirement age in 2006, sent out a letter to Republican donors stating his case clearly:
“One justice can mean the difference between liberty and tyranny. … Since leaving the bench, I’ve watched liberal ‘activist judges’ rewrite the Constitution – and waited for one justice to stand up and say ‘No’ to the craziness going on in our courts.”
When judges get in their way of passing unconstitutional laws, Tillisberger just passes a new unconstitutional law.
After passing laws imposing new conditions on abortions and elections, taking away teacher tenure and providing vouchers for private school tuition, Republican state legislators have seen those policies stymied in state and federal courtrooms.
So they have passed another law, this one making those kinds of lawsuits less likely to succeed when filed in state court. Beginning in September, all constitutional challenges to laws will be heard by three-judge trial court panels appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
The North Carolina Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s order to halt the state’s voucher program. That means the program can go on – at least for now. It’s a program that gives low-income families scholarships of up to $4,200 to help send their children to private schools.
“We are disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision,” said Edwin Dunlap, Jr., the Executive Director of the NCSBA, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. “The prudent thing would have been to answer these important constitutional questions before the state started spending public money on private schools.”
Yes, it would. It's also frustrating that nearly every time a high-profile decision is rendered by the NC Supreme Court these days, there's no mention in the media what the Court's vote was. That 4-3 or 5-2 or whatever used to be exposed in the first paragraph or so, but it doesn't seem to be an important factor anymore, at least in the eyes of news editors. Here's a clue: it is important, because the vote count itself tells a story. How strong and well-prepared the cases are, whether the majority is pushing the envelope on constitutionality, etc. It matters.
Make no mistake, it’s no coincidence this third candidate jumped into the race, just as it’s no coincidence this latecomer has been on Art Pope’s payroll for several years at one of his “institutes.” This is a calculated move to exploit both a quirk in our elections laws and the general lack of knowledge and concern voters have over judicial contests. But those movers and shakers aren’t satisfied with merely unbalancing the boat and leaving this up to luck. Oh, no. In for a penny, in for a pound. And these folks got a lot of pounds.
I've had several disagreements with various pundits about the wisdom of attacking the third-party attackers. While it's true they are not going to be on the ballot, they are coming into everybody's living room and pushing their views onto voters. The best way to fight that and to make all that money work against them is to educate the voting public:
As part of an article looking at how national political funders are getting involved in local judicial races, the Center for Public Integrity focused on $1.2 million from the Republican State Leadership Council. The money flowed through to an ad featuring a banjo-strumming narrator singing about how N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby is tough on crime, according to the report. (Newby, of course, ended up defeating challenger Sam Ervin IV, a N.C. Court of appeal judge, in the November election.)
The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan investigative news organization, found that “North Carolina’s Supreme Court election was arguably decided by groups like Justice for All — secretive nonprofits, unaffiliated with a candidate, whose money came from out of state.”
After the fiasco of 2012, this comes as no surprise to those of us who watched that catastrophe unfold. But this is happening right now, and we need to do everything we can to counter this propaganda.
The Racial Justice Act went to the Supreme Court this week. Now, the state’s highest court must decide how North Carolina should deal with troubling revelations of racial bias in capital trials.
The oral arguments Monday were about four defendants who have been resentenced to life in prison without parole after a Superior Court judge found “a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race in jury selection throughout North Carolina,” as well as in their individual cases.
However, the larger issue is this: As a result of the Racial Justice Act, a comprehensive study found that African-Americans are being systematically denied the right to serve on capital juries. A qualified black juror in North Carolina is more than twice as likely as a white juror to be removed with a peremptory strike.
This morning, the state supreme court will hear the cases of four defendants who were removed from death row under the state's racial justice act. The court will review whether the now repealed-act should apply to these defendants.
Experts say the state supreme court could come out with a narrowly tailored decision that would only affect those four people, or their decision could be broader and affect the more than 150 defendants who have filed motions for relief under the act.
It may be several days before the actual text of the arguments are made available, but we'll post them when we can.
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