Orr and Atkinson Join Hands to Fight Governor Perdue

At this very moment, our pal Justice Bob Orr is announcing his representation of Superintendent June Atkinson in a lawsuit against Governor Perdue to determine who will actually control North Carolina's education system:

When: April 3, 2009 at 11:00 am

Where: 333 E. Six Forks Road • Suite 180 • Raleigh, North Carolina

Purpose: Media briefing by Justice Robert F. Orr (retired) concerning litigation that will be filed Friday, April 3, 2009, by Dr. June St. Clair Atkinson to challenge the constitutionality of certain legislative and executive branch actions taken to usurp the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s constitutional authority to administer the North Carolina public school system.

I had a hunch a lawsuit was in the works, but why Justice Orr? Is it because of his clout as a former Supreme Court Justice, or is this a Constitutional issue that is made-to-order for NCICL? Or, is this an attack originating from the dark heart of the Puppetshow?

I know both of these folks are at least occasional readers of BlueNC, so why don't we see if we can get some horse's mouth on this?

Hat tip to Jane over at the Dome.

Addendum: Just for the hell of it, why don't we take a look at what Justice Orr had to say about this while he was running for Governor last year:

In a plan released this morning, the Republican gubernatorial candidate said he wants to fundamentally change the way the state's public education system works, some of which would mean changing the state constitution.

Among other things, he would:

* Make the state Superintendent of Public Instruction an appointed, not elected, office.

* Make the governor responsible for public schools.

* Elect eight members to the State Board of Education and have the governor appoint three others.

Orr said this would increase accountability and oversight for education, while clarifying the responsibility of the governor to improve public schools.

He argued that it's "disingenuous" for state officials to call for responsibility for education by principals and teachers, yet not take responsibility themselves.

"If the next governor wants to be an education governor, then that person has to be fully responsible for the successes as well as the failures in the public schools," he said.

Oh, and about those eight (voter) elected BoE members? They would be virtually powerless:

The Republican gubernatorial candidate said that under his proposed education reform plan, an 11-member board would serve an advisory role to the governor.

Okay, so...if Bob Orr had been elected Governor, he would have (tried to) change the Constitution so he could appoint the Superintendent instead of allowing the voters to choose. And he would have made the voter-elected Board of Education "advisory" (powerless) in nature. Because the Governor needs to be totally responsible for the success or failure of public schools. Gotcha.

But someone else became Governor, didn't she? So now Justice Orr is taking our Governor to court for doing almost exactly what he said he would do if elected—marginalizing elected education officials and running the show himself.


It seems like a constitutional issue to me.

Despite the company he keeps, I think Orr is a straight-up guy who mostly does the right things. We already know the Show wants to end taxpayer supported public education, but this doesn't seem like that kind of attack.

Bob came to last year's Blogger Bash ... maybe he'll come again and we can ask him in person.

It can be two things, though...

Okay, here's my thing: 1) Justice Orr and NCICL will likely be doing this work pro-bono for June, due to their non-profit status. 2) Pro-bono or not, this litigation is still going to cost an arm and at least part of a leg to pursue. 3) Three guesses on where that money's going to come from.

Bob Orr may be intent on addressing a Constitutional violation, but the justification of moneys spent has to be political. Art didn't get rich by sacrificing for the common good.

There is clearly a constitutional issue, but is this illegal?

Even the Governor has admitted that there are constitutional issues around educational leadership. But is what the Governor did illegal? I'm not so sure, exactly because the constitution isn't specific on this point.

The people of North Carolina shouldn't be paying two people to lead the school system. Rather than going through the courts, I think the GA should allow the people to settle it. Put up a referendum to make the State Supt. an appointed position. If the referendum fails, the GA should provide alternative constitutional clarity to our educational leadership structure.

As the old saying goes,

As the old saying goes, politics makes for strange bedfellows.

There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. - Robert F. Kennedy

Atkinson Suit

Thoughtful readers shouldn't jump to conclusions. Read the Complaint. Listen to the comments at the press advisory. And perhaps ask a lawyer friend for a free opinion. There really isn't a conspiracy behind every bush. And didn't NCICL sue over the validity of the lottery - a position some BlueNC readers agreed with; and didn't NCICL sue over corporate give-aways - read Dell - a position some BlueNC readers agreed with. So what constitutional challenge has NCICL engaged in that didn't raise legitimate issues of constitutional law and reflect a good government philosophy?

Just because you're paranoid,

it doesn't mean they're not out to get you...


Look, I've found agendas hiding behind nearly every bush in Art Pope's diverse garden of political organizations. Enough so that I start with the assumption that some sort of plot is afoot, I just have to figure out what it is.

Considering he's the Vice Chairman and Treasurer of NCICL, it's a good bet they'll take the cases he wants them to, and somewhere along the line there's a potential benefit to the Republican Party or business interests that support it.

This one may be something as simple as dragging a Democratic Governor into court and clipping her nails, or there may be something else going on. And having a former Republican Gubernatorial Candidate who was running against Perdue (pre-primary) be the one that takes her to court puts another weird twist into this...

I don't know how this happens.

I find myself going, yeah, but...when it comes to Robert Orr.

This is a very smart man, and since this is a constitutional issue, it should be going to court. Governor Perdue hasn't been arrested; no laws have been broken, but we can't let that go by just because Bev doesn't want the pesky State Constitution to interfere with her vision of governing. This is the situation for which the courts were designed.

I trust June Atkinson, and if she is trusting Robert Orr to represent her, then I say go for it.

I don't totally disagree, Linda

But please read the extra stuff I just added to the main body of the diary. It doesn't really change the fact that there is a Constitutional issue that needs clarification, but it does bring up some questions about whether Justice Orr should be representing her.

Does the Constitution matter or not?

We can disagree on policy. We can disagree on how to interpret the Constitution. But how can you continue to advocate for ignoring the Constitution or fault people for challenging either the overt failure to follow the Constitution or the blatant mindset of "I don't have time to worry about such details." ?

So here's the Constitution

Article 3, Section 1 establishes the Council of State offices.

Article 3, Section 2 explicitly says that their duties will be prescibed by law

(2) Duties. Their respective duties shall be prescribed by law.


Of course it matters

And if I thought NCICL was pursuing this solely to defend the Constitution, I wouldn't have said a damned word. But they're not. This has a lot more to do with politics than it does standing up for the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a post that Justice Orr would have (tried to) put under his thumb if he'd been elected Governor.

Art Pope has assembled a comprehensive network of Conservative entities, ranging from local blogs and radio stations up to white paper and legal brief/litigation-producing institutes, and their "product" finds its way to the ears and eyes of too many citizens and the desks of too many General Assembly members.

Frankly, I'm tired of it. And I'm also tired of seemingly intelligent Democrats like Richard Moore and June Atkinson using Art Pope's lawyers to fight against their fellow Democrats. Pope's been having his cake and eating it too for far too long, and it's time for us to push back. Hard. So don't expect me to keep quiet when I find his fingerprints on something, even if it appears to be a good thing.

So what's the politics of all of this?

If June Atkinson (a registed democrat) prevails, she'll be in charge of the day to day operation of the public school system. If she loses, Bill Harrison (I assume a registered democrat) will be in charge of the day to day operation of the public school system. If the GA (controlled by democrat majorities) wants to present the public with a constitutional amendment to go to an appointive system, they can do that. If the public wants to pass that amendment, they can do it. So where's the secret political agenda? And don't quote part of the relevant portions of the Constitution, but ignore the others. Look at Article IX, which sets out the role of the Superintendent.

I already linked to Article IX above, but if you insist...

(2)Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Superintendent of Public Instruction shall be the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education.

Is June Atkinson the secretary of the SBOE? Yes.

Does Article IX require the Superintendent to also be the Chair of the Board? No.

Has it ever been interpreted to require that? No.


Here's the politics of this:

An extremely powerful Republican activist:

Art Pope is an activist in the Republican Party, having served at every level from Precinct Chairman to Chairman of the NC Republican Party State Convention and as a Delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1992 and 1996.

gets to drag a Democratic Governor into court and challenge her power. And, as an added bonus, he gets to do this while wearing a cloak of bi-partisanship, because the plaintiff in the suit is another Democrat. That's why I mentioned "having his cake and eating it too" up above. He gets to deliver his punches without looking like a jerk.

The effectiveness of this cloak is apparent in the commentary by you and others in this very thread.

No Democrat who knows this fight is fooled by Orr or Pope-ites

This is a long-running battle among factions in the Democratic party that never included Atkinson. It started even before Howard Lee's involvement (who made things worse) and others (JB Buxton and his patron).

Atkinson has chosen to switch tactics at this stage of the dispute and ally herself with Orr/Pope. I do not see the long-term good she does for the state, the educational structure, or herself by handling matters this way.

Any party chieftians who read this blog would do well to sit the aggrieved parties down and handle this privately without more open inter-party battles.


I agree. "It's a family affair,

it's a family affair."

Crap. Now I've got that song stuck in my head...