Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Updated: 4 lawsuits filed this morning over constitutional amendments, veto overrides

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect another lawsuit that was filed today.

Four different lawsuits were filed this morning in Wake County Superior Court over the constitutional amendments that are expected to be on the ballot this November and the legislative veto overrides from the weekend.

Chris Anglin threatened to sue lawmakers last week if they voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of Senate Bill 3, which retroactively requires a 90-day voter registration party affiliation for judicial candidates.

Lawmakers initially removed that requirement when they eliminated judicial primary elections this year and made all judicial races partisan. It wasn’t until Anglin switched from a Democratic affiliation to Republican and then threw his hat in the ring for a state Supreme Court seat that they came back and changed the requirement again but to apply retroactively.

Anglin, who is challenging Republican incumbent Barbara Jackson and Democratic candidate Anita Earls, can still appear on the ballot under SB3, but he will not have a party label next to his name like the other candidates.

Anglin states in his lawsuit that he is being deprived of his right to appear on the ballot as a Republican.

“[SB3], as applied to plaintiff, arbitrarily and capriciously prevents Plaintiff from having the equality and rights bestowed upon others similarly situated, namely his opponents Barbara Jackson and Anita Earls, insofar as they are not barred from running as a candidate of their chosen political party,” the suit states.

The measure also infringes on Anglin’s right of political association, a component of free speech, according to the lawsuit. He points out that his right to run as a Republican at the time of candidate filing was established by statute and paid for, as required to run for election.

Anglin notes in the suit that he has to decide by Wednesday whether he will remain on the ballot without a party label or if he will withdraw from the race altogether. Given that fast deadline, he is asking the court to prevent SB3 from taking effect.

A court hearing over Anglin’s motion for a temporary restraining order is set for 2:30 p.m. today in courtroom 10A at the Wake County Courthouse. Hearings are open to the public.

Anglin is one of four total judicial candidates affected by SB3. You can read his full lawsuit here.

Wake County District Court candidate Rebecca Anne Edwards, who changed her Republican registration to Democratic on May 30, also filed a lawsuit over SB3.

It states that Edwards first registered to vote as a Republican when she was 18 years old, but that over the past several years, she has increasingly supported Democratic causes and candidates, including the election of Gov. Roy Cooper.

“Although she is troubled by the level of partisanship at all levels of government, she has considered herself a Democrat for the past several years and believes that the Democratic Party best reflects her political positions,” the lawsuit states.

Edwards, like Anglin, is asking the court to enter a temporary restraining order enjoining SB3 and to rule it unconstitutional as it applies to her. You can read the full lawsuit here.

Her case will be heard at the same time as Anglin’s.

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The North Carolina NAACP and Clean Air Carolina filed a lawsuit Monday over four of the six constitutional amendments expected to be on the ballot in the upcoming election.

The advocacy groups are seeking an immediate temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the proposals from appearing on ballots set to be finalized Wednesday, according to a news release. The lawsuit is over these four amendments: voter identification, boards and commissions appointments, judicial vacancy appointments and tax cap.

“For four out of the six proposed constitutional amendments, the vote count barely met the required supermajority threshold, clearing that hurdle by just one or two votes,” the lawsuit states. “Thus, these four proposed amendments are the direct result of the illegally engineered maps that targeted black voters and packed them into racially segregated districts. This court cannot allow this unconstitutionally-constituted body to use its misappropriated power to enact proposals that amend our Constitution in ways designed to suppress African-American voters and to further entrench the usupers’ political power at the expense of popular sovereignty.”

The groups, like Anglin, ask the court for a temporary restraining order to enjoin the amendments from appearing on the ballot. A hearing is set for 10 a.m. tomorrow, with the exact courtroom to be determined.

You can read the full lawsuit here.

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Gov. Roy Cooper

Cooper also filed a lawsuit Monday over two constitutional amendments that would “take a wrecking ball to the separation of powers.”

The amendments are one that would transfer Cooper’s powers to appoint to state boards and commissions to the General Assembly and the other would strip him of the ability to appoint judicial vacancies.

The lawsuit states that when North Carolinians see the two amendments on the ballot, they won’t have an accurate description of what they’re voting on.

“Rather than allow the voters to make an intelligent decision whether to restructure their own state government, the General Assembly has adopted false and misleading ballot language that conceals the true — and truly extraordinary — nature of these proposed amendments,” the lawsuit states.

Cooper has asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent the two amendments from appearing on the ballot and for the court to rule them unconstitutional. You can read the full lawsuit here.

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Here are the judicial candidates who would be affected by tomorrow’s veto override

If there’s any takeaway for judicial candidates from Raleigh politics over the past few months, it’s that no one is safe.

Lawmakers are expected to vote to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes tomorrow — House Bill 3, which addresses the constitutional amendment captions and Senate Bill 3, which changes the rules about which judicial candidates can have a party designation by their name on the November ballot.

The latter requires judicial candidates to have been affiliated with the party they are registered with for at least 90 days — a status quo requirement that Republicans changed when they eliminated judicial primaries but then changed again in a special session after a state Supreme Court candidate took advantage of the relaxed ballot access.

But the candidate lawmakers have targeted with Senate Bill 3, Chris Anglin (who changed his Democratic voter registration to Republican on June 7), isn’t the only one who will be affected. Here’s the full list of candidates who would lose party affiliations on the ballot if lawmakers override the SB3 veto (according to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement):

  • Michael John Stading, of Mecklenburg — he filed for seat 1 in District Court district 26A and changed his Democratic registration to Republican on May 29.
  • Kevin Grist Eddinger, of Rowan — he filed for seat 1 in District Court district 19C and changed his Democratic registration to Unaffiliated on May 14.
  • Rebecca Anne Edwards, of Wake — she filed for seat 2 in District Court district 10D and changed her Republican registration to Democratic on May 30.

Anglin has already threatened to sue as early as Monday if lawmakers override the veto. House and Senate sessions are scheduled to convene at 11 a.m. tomorrow.

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Know a student who might want to be a lawyer? Youth event planned Saturday at courthouse

Area youth are invited to attend the Capital City Lawyers Association (CCLA) 2018 Youth Law Day event at the Wake County Courthouse tomorrow.

The program provides opportunities for individuals to learn about the judicial branch and judicial system, as well as expose them to the different roles of people who work in the courthouse and courtroom, according to a news release.

Participants will be able to interact with and ask questions of attorneys, judges and law enforcement officers, and take a tour of the Wake County jail. They will also be encouraged to consider potential careers in the legal and or law enforcement fields.

The program is open to middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 16. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and the program will begin at 9:15 a.m. lasting through 1 p.m. at the Wake County Courthouse, 316 Fayetteville Street in Raleigh.

CCLA is a local, inclusive, voluntary bar association comprised primarily of minority attorneys, judges and elected officials, according to its website.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

NY Times highlights stories of North Carolinians charged with illegal voting

The New York Times did a deep dive into the prosecution of 12 people in Alamance County charged with illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election.

The 12 Alamance County residents, nine of whom are Black, were all on probation or parole for felony convictions at the time they voted, which is not legal in North Carolina, the newspaper reports.

The cases are rare compared with the tens of millions of votes cast in state and national elections. In 2017, at least 11 people nationwide were convicted of illegal voting because they were felons or noncitizens, according to a database of voting prosecutions compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Others have been convicted of voting twice, filing false registrations or casting a ballot for a family member.

The case against the 12 voters in Alamance County — a patchwork of small towns about an hour west of the state’s booming Research Triangle — is unusual for the sheer number of people charged at once. And because nine of the defendants are black, the case has touched a nerve in a state with a history of suppressing African-American votes.

The Times reports that local civil-rights groups and Black leaders urged the district attorney (Pat Nadolski, a Republican) to drop the prosecution, saying that Black voters were being disproportionately punished for an unwitting mistake.

African-Americans in North Carolina are more likely to be disqualified from voting because of felony convictions; their rate of incarceration is more than four times that of white residents, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit organization.

“It smacks of Jim Crow,” said Barrett Brown, the head of the Alamance County N.A.A.C.P. Referring to the district attorney, he added, “I don’t think he targeted black people. But if you cast that net, you’re going to catch more African-Americans.”

Mr. Nadolski said that race and ethnicity are not a factor in any case he prosecutes.

Reporter Jack Healy interviewed five of the accused Alamance residents, who all told him their voting was a mistake — they didn’t understand the voter forms they signed and didn’t know the law.

Nadolski told Healy he was trying to maintain the integrity of the voting system.

Activists have protested outside the county courthouse and asked supporters to flood the district attorney’s office with letters and phone calls on the defendants’ behalf.

Whitney Brown, 32, said that no judge, lawyer or probation officer ever told her that she had temporarily lost her right to vote after she pleaded guilty to a 2014 charge of writing bad checks. Her sentence did not include prison time.

By November 2016, she was complying with her probation and focused on moving ahead with her life, caring for her two sons, who are now 6 and 9 years old, and taking online classes to become a medical receptionist. So when her mother invited her to come with her to vote for president, Ms. Brown said she did so without a second thought.

Months later, she got a letter from state election officials telling her she appeared to have voted illegally. “My heart dropped,” she said.

You can read the full article here, which includes more information about and interviews with the “Alamance 12.”

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NC Supreme Court candidate will file lawsuit if lawmakers override Cooper veto

If lawmakers vote this weekend to override Senate Bill 3, which restores a 90-day party registration requirement, the Supreme Court candidate they are targeting intends to file a lawsuit.

Chris Anglin, a 32-year-old Raleigh attorney, changed his voter registration from Democrat to Republican about two months ago and then put his hat in the ring for a seat on the high court, challenging incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson and well-known civil rights attorney Anita Earls.

The Republican Party immediately called Anglin out for switching parties and Dallas Woodhouse vowed to treat him “like the enemy he is.” It wasn’t long after that Republican lawmakers called a special legislative session and crafted SB3, which changed the rules about which judicial candidates could have a party designation by their name on the November ballot.

“The party information listed by each of the following candidates’ names is shown only if the candidates’ party affiliation or unaffiliated status is the same as on their voter registration at the time they filed to run for office and 90 days prior to that filing,” the bill states.

Anglin and one other judicial candidate are the only ones who would be affected by that language in the upcoming election.

“Every child understands changing the rules in the middle of game is wrong,” Anglin wrote in a release. “So do voters. Lawmakers should consider that before walking the plank on this vote.”

He said he filed to run for a seat on the Supreme Court “to stand up for an independent judiciary, to give a voice to disaffected Republicans who no longer recognize their party and are appalled at the assaults on our democracy happening every day on a state and federal level and to make the point that partisan judicial elections are a bad idea.”

He accused the General Assembly of being relentless in their attacks on the judiciary and of trying to rig the election.

“Even now they are trying to game the system by waiting over a week to take a vote on the Governor’s veto in order to try and run out the clock, and prevent any access to the Judiciary for relief,” Anglin added in the release. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Anglin states at the end of the news release that he will file a lawsuit at the earliest opportunity Monday if lawmakers do override the Governor’s veto of SB3 as part of his continued fight for an independent judiciary.

The 90-day requirement that lawmakers resurrected is one that was the status quo until they changed it recently to allow for more ballot access as part of a larger measure that eliminated judicial primary races this year. The Democratic Party wanted Republicans to leave the 90-day requirement alone, but they refused — even in court — and only changed it back when it didn’t work in their favor.

Anglin has been the clear target of SB3 — lawmakers have said it themselves — but there is another candidate for judicial office that took advantage of the elimination of the 90-day requirement. Rebecca Edwards, who is running for a Wake County District Court seat, changed her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat on June 1, according to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Candidate filing took place from June 18 through June 29. If lawmakers override the Governor’s veto of SB3, Anglin’s and Edwards’ names will still appear on the ballot this fall; they just won’t have a party affiliation listed like the other candidates.