Commentary

So-called “technical corrections” bill contains another partisan attack on Attorney General Stein

Attorney General Stein

Speaker Moore and Senator Berger

You really can’t make this stuff up. Apparently unsated by their previous transparently partisan attacks on Attorney General Josh Stein, the conservative leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are preparing to punish Stein and his office again today during the latest rump special legislative session. Travis Fain of WRAL reports that a so-called “technical corrections” bill contains “language ordering the Attorney General’s Office not to delegate criminal appeal duties to local district attorneys, despite the fact that the legislature sliced the AG’s budget earlier this year. At the time, Attorney General Josh Stein said shifting duties would be necessary in light of the 11 percent budget cut.”

Did you get that? As Policy Watch reporter Melissa Boughton reported last month, the legislature inflicted destructive and unwarranted cuts on Stein’s office in the 2018 state budget that took effect July 1. Dozens of fine public servants had to be fired. In order to make sure vital work still gets done in such an environment, Stein announced that some criminal appeals duties would be transferred to local district attorneys. This is from her story:

“Before September 1, DOJ attorneys handled all criminal appeals, the prosecution of complex or conflict cases and “motions for appropriate relief” (MARs). In a letter sent August 2 to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, Stein said his office would no longer be able to handle all of those things.

District Attorneys across the state will now handle all criminal appeals stemming from probation revocations and any misdemeanor other than a driving under the influence charge. They may also be required to handle MARs on behalf of the state, and Stein said his office would be cutting back on handling the prosecution of complex or conflict cases.”

Amazingly, however, this move will apparently not pass muster with the squeeze-blood-from-turnips bullies on Jones Street. Instead, they will apparently order Stein not to transfer these cases and, presumably, stop doing some other essential state legal work. Maybe they’ll direct him to handle the cases personally.

To make the whole thing even more remarkable and outrageous (and in keeping withe lawless manner in which the General Assembly now runs) this important policy decision will be taken without any notice, public hearings or opportunity for real discussion. Like essentially every other important legislative decision these days, the change was cooked up behind closed doors and will, effectively, be issued as a royal edict from Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger  and House Speaker Tim Moore, who now preside over state government like a pair of dueling crown princes.

Unbelievable.

 

Commentary

Appropriate: Failed McCrory HHS Secretary to host Trump fundraiser in Greensboro

Aldona Wos

Donald Trump speaking

President Trump

WRAL.com reports that former Pat McCrory HHS Secretary Aldona Wos and her go-zillionaire husband Louis DeJoy will host a high dollar fundraiser for President Donald Trump this weekend in Greensboro. This seems appropriate since Wos and DeJoy are both Trump’s kind of people: rich and overbearing plutocrats who think their wealth somehow gives them the divine right (and the knowledge necessary) to run government, but who in fact have scarcely a clue.

For those who may have already erased the memory of Wos’ contentious and unproductive tenure at HHS from their minds, this is from a post that followed her long overdue resignation in August of 2015, entitled “Chief reaction to Wos departure: Relief”:

Here’s Wos’ hometown Greensboro News & Record in an editorial called “Good heart, bad fit”:

“As for tangible results, well, that was another matter. Despite her background as a physician and former U.S. ambassador— and her famous, sunrise-to-late-night work ethic — the sheer weight of the DHHS bureaucracy seemed to overwhelm Wos.

In time, critics on both sides of the partisan aisle began to wonder out loud if they were getting their money’s worth.

Now, after two and half years at the post, Wos is leaving, Gov. Pat McCrory announced at a Wednesday news conference in Raleigh. Standing at his side, Wos noted it was ‘time to go home.’ Although the governor tearfully praised Wos’ job performance and commitment — as he has all along — her tenure has been wracked by a series of missteps and crises, large and small…”

The N&R then goes on to list a half dozen HHS disasters under Wos’ leadership.

Raleigh’s N&O put it this way in a piece entitled “Don’t cry for me North Carolina”:

“Some Republican lawmakers were annoyed by the turmoil in the department and Wos’ inability to provide reliable numbers on the cost of Medicaid. Senate Republicans even proposed that their version of Medicaid reform would remove the program entirely from DHHS and place its management under the control of a new agency. Indeed, lawmakers doubts about Wos may well have played a role in her resignation.”

The Winston-Salem Journalcalled for the department to be put back on track:

“The resignation Wednesday of Dr. Aldona Wos, the embattled secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, was as overdue as it was unsurprising.…During the two-and-a-half years she has served as secretary, legislators of both parties, advocates and state audits have repeatedly pointed out flaws in the department’s delivery of service to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Charlotte Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers compares the department Wos leaves behind to the Statue of Liberty — the torch section.

Let’s hope Wos gives Trump some ideas about transitioning from public to private life in the near future.

Commentary

NC prosecutors: Still using bogus excuses to exclude Black jurors

In case you missed it, there was an excellent op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer this past weekend by Duke University law professor James Coleman about the reality of how racial bias continues to negatively impact the practice of criminal law in our state. This is from Coleman’s essay, “Rejecting black jurors denies defendants a fair trial”:

“Jury service is one of the most important ways in which ordinary citizens participate in our criminal justice system. Throughout our history, however, that system has denied African-Americans full participation in this form of self-government; like Confederate monuments, this occurs in plain sight and often is ignored….

Enforcement of the right of African-Americans to serve on juries is one of the primary protections against these kinds of injustices. Regrettably, North Carolina courts stand out nationally for their failure to protect this fundamental right. When qualified African-Americans are called for jury service today, they still are far more likely to be rejected than their white counterparts.

Prosecutors justify such exclusions on numerous discriminatory grounds. They exclude some individuals because they attended a historically black college or university; some because they are the same age as the defendant; and others because their employment contacts with black people make them more likely to be sympathetic to a black defendant. These are thinly veiled pretexts for discrimination.

Courts have a duty to prevent this kind of discriminatory behavior, and they have a tool to do so. It is unconstitutional to exclude citizens from jury service because of race. The U.S. Supreme Court established this principle more than 30 years ago, in a case known as Batson v. Kentucky.

Yet, in North Carolina, the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have never enforced the principle, as least as it applies to African-Americans. According to a recent study published in the North Carolina Law Review and an analysis that I co-authored in The NC State Bar Journal, the state appellate courts have never acknowledged a single instance of discrimination against a minority juror. Not once in three decades…. Read more

Commentary

Gerrymandering opponents to march and rally on Wednesday in Raleigh

Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina  and a longtime leader in our state’s fight for fair and clean elections has the following message for those who care about ending gerrymandering in North Carolina:

Good people,

Grassroots citizen groups across the state are holding an emergency March for Voting Rights, Against Rigged Elections on Wednesday morning, October 4, the day the General Assembly reconvenes for a special session.

Democracy North Carolina is encouraging everyone who can to attend this important march in Raleigh.

As you know, the Republican-controlled General Assembly has tried to make it harder for us to vote. They’ve tried to adopt racially biased district maps to protect their own re-election. Now, on October 4, they are going after the courts with a bill to create new judicial voting districts  that will make it easier to elect the kind of District and Superior Court judges they want.

The bill will disrupt family courts, drug-treatment and guardian ad litem programs, adoption services, criminal courts, and juvenile justice programs. It would eliminate judges in Durham and other counties with significant African American populations. In fact, it creates new voting maps to replace Black judges with Republican judges in Charlotte, Fayetteville, Raleigh and many other cities.

This is an outrageous power grab by Republican lawmakers. It follows a whole series of attacks on our democracy and right to vote. That’s why grassroots groups are calling for this March, with the theme: “Stolen Votes, Silenced Voices.”

The March begins Wednesday at 10 am at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh 27601 (the same starting point for the H K on J marches).  It will proceed up Fayetteville Street to the State Legislature Building on Jones Street for a rally and press conference at 11 am.  You can then go inside to witness the General Assembly in action. (Note: No civil disobedience at this event.)

This will be a silent march to symbolize our Silenced Voices.  Black tape will be provided to tape mouths, as an option. Please wear a white or light-colored shirt to contrast with the tape or a black sash you bring to cover your mouth. We’ll have signs to carry, or bring your own with messages about fair maps, voting rights, protecting the courts, etc.

See you there!

Learn more on the event Facebook page by clicking here.

 

Commentary

Shocking numbers: Las Vegas tragedy represents only a small uptick in America’s daily carnage

As the people of Las Vegas grapple this morning with the reality of being the latest American city to experience the horror of mass murder, it’s worth noting that America’s insane national obsession with possessing mass killing machines has now reached such an absurd level that even events like last night’s tragedy barely affect the statistics.

Consider the following remarkable data, courtesy of the good people at Everytown for Gun Safety:

  • On an average day, 93 Americans are killed with guns
  • Seven of the 93 of children or teens
  • On average, there are nearly 12,000 gun homicides a year in the U.S.
  • For every one person killed with guns, two more are injured
  • 62% of firearm deaths are suicides
  • In an average month, 50 women int he U.S. are shot by their intimate partners
  • America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average for other developed countries
  • Background checks have blocked nearly 3 million sales to prohibited people
  • Black men are are 14 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with guns
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of the woman being shot and killed by 500%