Commentary, News

President nominates veteran state court judge to federal bench; Burr (surprise!) will block

Justice Timmons-Goodson.jpgHo hum. Another day in which President Obama nominates a respected and highly qualified jurist to the federal bench; another day in which North Carolina’s senior senator makes himself look foolish in announcing he will block the nomination. And, of course, the fact that she would be the first person of color to serve as a federal judge in the two and a quarter centuries they’ve had them in eastern North Carolina has nothing to do with it.

AP’s Gary Robertson reports:

“President Barack Obama’s latest pick Thursday to fill a longstanding vacancy in eastern North Carolina’s federal courts already appears scuttled by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who blames the president for not acting in good faith.

The White House announced Obama had nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson of Fayetteville to become a U.S. District judge in the Eastern District.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Timmons-Goodson would fill a seat that’s been empty for more than 10 years. The president’s 2013 nomination of Jennifer May-Parker for the judgeship was never heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Late Thursday, Burr said the nomination is a ‘transparent attempt to turn the Eastern District vacancy into an election season stunt” and that he “will not support a new nomination in North Carolina from this administration.'”

Richard Burr 2Burr claims there was some kind of “deal” between he and Obama years ago over court nominees and has been using this excuse to keep the people of eastern North Carolina under-served and deprived of their first federal judge of color in North Carolina history for years. You really can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Richard Burr: The only thing that’s “transparent'” in the mess surrounding your absurd and endless blockade of federal court nominees is your lack of regard for the truth and the people of North Carolina.  Judge Timmon-Goodson would be an outstanding and mold-breaking federal judge and yet all you can think of are your own petty grudges and gripes. Your performance in these matters has been a grave disservice to the citizens you swore to represent.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Many communities still struggling, according to latest employment data

State leaders should not lose sight of the fact that many communities across the state are still struggling to erase the damage left by the Great Recession. While parts of the state have long-since surpassed their pre-recession economic peaks, more than half of the counties in the state still have fewer jobs than they did before the financial collapse, now more than eight years ago.

Signs that many communities have not recovered include:

  • Almost three-quarters of our counties have a higher unemployment rate than before the Great Recession. With statewide progress in reducing unemployment stalled, many local communities are getting stuck with a worse employment picture than they had before the recession.
  • More than half of our counties have not gotten back to pre-recession levels of employment. Even after years of economic recovery, 55 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have fewer jobs today than existed before the Great Recession. With many of the new job opportunities clustering in a few parts of the state, many communities are still struggling to get back to where they were almost a decade ago.
  • Lack of recovery is not a purely rural problem. Several cities, including Fayetteville, New Bern, and Rocky Mount still have not recovered to pre-recession levels of employment

(For a summary of each county’s current economic data, see our Labor Market Watch page, and to see how each county’s current economic figures compare to pre-recession levels, see our Recession Watch page.)

Read more


Major education nonprofit, North Carolina New Schools, to close, WRAL reports

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bSurprising news from WRAL today about a theoretically well-funded education nonprofit that is shutting its doors. 

The news station reports that North Carolina New Schools, a group that helps to train teachers and administrators across the state, will be closing, although no reason was provided.

From WRAL:

A spokeswoman for the group said it is a “difficult day” and that more information would be released this afternoon after conversations with staff.

On Thursday morning, NC New Schools’ President Tony Habit sent an email announcing that he resigned Wednesday after nearly 13 years as the organization’s founding president. WRAL News reached out to Habit, as well as other employees with the organization, but they have not responded.

NC New Schools is based in Research Triangle Park and has received millions of dollars in donations and federal grants since it began in 2003, including nearly $26 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a $20 million grant in 2014 and a $15 million grant in 2011 from the U.S. Department of Education.

Policy Watch has reached out to some supporters of the program, which is generally well thought of in the state. We’ll let you know when we learn more.

Read more

Commentary, News

No more March madness in NC? Sure looks like it after NCAA adopts new nondiscrimination rule

The good folks at Think Progress have even more bad news for the state of North Carolina in the ongoing wake of HB2:

UNC hoopsOn Wednesday, the NCAA Board of Governors adopted a new requirement: Sites bidding on NCAA events must demonstrate that they will provide a safe environment, free of discrimination.

The directive could have a serious impact on North Carolina, which is scheduled to host NCAA tournament games in both 2017 and 2018, and has been the focus of widespread backlash after the recent passage of an anti-LGBT law.

In March, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed HB2, a law that blocks North Carolina cities from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances and forces transgender men and women to use the bathroom that aligns with their birth certificate, not their gender identity, into law. Mississippi passed a similar law, scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

While the NCAA statement doesn’t officially mention HB2, the writing on the wall seems clear: If North Carolina doesn’t say goodbye to HB2, it might have to say goodbye to hosting March Madness.

“Currently awarded sites must report how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event,” the NCAA said in a statement to Andy Katz of ESPN. “The information must be reported to the Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity, and full implementation is expected during the current bidding process.” Read more


Is an eight-justice Supreme Court the new normal?

That’s one of the provocative questions that constitutional scholar Michael Gerhardt will tackle at the next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon on Tuesday May 10 in Raleigh. RSVP today as it’s sure to be a full house. Here are the details:

A conversation with nationally acclaimed scholar, author and commentator Michael Gerhardt: The Merrick Garland nomination and its implications for the U.S. Supreme Court

Register below

It’s been well over a month now since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. To date, however, Senate Republicans (including Richard Burr and Thom Tillis) have remained adamant that Garland’s nomination will not even receive a hearing – much less an “up or down” confirmation vote.

To veteran constitutional law expert, Professor Michael Gerhardt, this is an important and disturbing turn in the history of the Court and the politics surrounding it. As Gerhardt has explained in a variety of national publications, Garland is one of the most distinguished and well-prepared nominees in Supreme Court history. If senators follow through with their plans to ignore the nomination, it will have important implications for the future of the Court.

Join us as Gerhardt examines the Garland nomination, what we can expect from a divided Court comprised of just eight justices and what the Senate blockade might mean for future presidents and nominees.

About the speaker: Michael Gerhardt is Samuel Ashe Distinguished Professor of Constitutional Law at the UNC School of Law. He specializes in constitutional conflicts and has been active as a special counsel, scholar, adviser, expert witness, and public commentator on all the major conflicts between presidents and Congress over the past quarter century.

Professor Gerhardt has written dozens of law review articles and five books, including “The Power of Precedent” (paperback, Oxford University Press, 2011). The Financial Times selected his most recent book, “The Forgotten Presidents: Their Untold Constitutional Legacy” (Oxford University Press, 2013), as one of its Best Non-Fiction Books of 2013.

Professor Gerhardt’s extensive public service has included advising congressional leaders and White House officials on numerous constitutional issues, including judicial nominations, recess appointments, impeachment, health care reform, the filibuster, and the debt ceiling crises. In 1992-93, he served as one of eight members of the Justice Department transition team for President Clinton and wrote the judicial selection policy for the incoming administration.

Professor Gerhardt is the only legal scholar to participate in Supreme Court confirmation hearings for five of the nine justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court. He served as Special Counsel assisting the Clinton White House on Justice Stephen Breyer’s confirmation hearings. In 2005, he advised several senators on President Bush’s nomination of John Roberts as Chief Justice of the United States, and he testified as an expert witness in the confirmation hearings for Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. In 2009-2010, Professor Gerhardt served as Special Counsel to Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the Senate Judiciary Committee for the nominations of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Don’t miss this very special event!

Register here

When: Tuesday May 10, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or