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Provisions in the latest budget explain the payment process for the 780 eugenics claims submitted to the Office for Justice for Sterilization Victims by the June 30 deadline, and set some hard deadlines for those whose claims have been received by the deadline but are missing information.

(Despite a request by the state NAACP, the General Assembly did not extend the June 30 deadline,)

As of July 17, according to the Office,  500 of those claims had been forwarded to the NC Industrial Commission for determination of eligibility and the remaining logged as received by the deadline but either missing information or requiring additional research.

Those with missing information have until September 23, 2014 to submit what’s required.

Also per the budget, disbursements from the fund will begin with an initial payment by October 31, 2014 to those determined, as of October 1, 2014, to be “qualified recipients.”   The amount of that payment will be determined by dividing the number of qualified and pending claimants by $10 million.

Those determined to be qualified after that date will receive an initial payment within 60 days of determination.

Presumably on the theory that some of the pending claims may ultimately not be qualified, there will be a second round of payments made from what’s left in the fund.  That payment will be made 90 days from the date of the last appeal.

By September 30, 2014, all remaining claim forms will be submitted to the Industrial  Commission for review and  disposition.

The budget provisions also clarify that payments from the fund are NOT to be split or otherwise used to compensate attorneys who may have helped victims with the filing of claims:

It is the public policy of this State that funds awarded for the compensation of sterilization victims under this Part may be used only for the purpose of benefiting victims and shall not be used to pay attorneys’ fees arising from representation at the Office, before the Commission, or on appeal. The General Assembly finds that qualified recipients have suffered a unique harm that calls for a unique remedy and that there are sufficient sources of assistance and pro bono legal representation available to protect their interests. Therefore, any agreement for the acceptance of attorneys’ fees is null and void unless counsel has sought and received an opinion from the North Carolina State Bar that the fee arrangement is reasonable under the Rules of Professional Conduct.

For more about the eugenics fund, read here.

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Here’s a quick look at how the compromise budget released last night affects the courts and justice system.

Funding for the Administrative Office of the Court  The proposed budget calls for a $2.9 million reduction of funding for the AOC, but specifies that positions not be eliminated in any district operating at less than 100 percent of recommended staffing levels per the current workload formula developed by the National Center for State Courts.   It also reduces the appropriation for AOC technology services by $500,000, leaving $15 million remaining there.

These are compromise numbers from previous budget drafts.  The Senate had proposed cutting technology funding to the courts by $3.7 million and the remaining AOC administrative appropriation by an additional $1.5 million. The House had called for a flat $4.95 million cut, without specifying where cuts should be made.

Cuts to Family Courts  In this latest version of the budget, Family Courts are left intact.

The initial House budget gutted Family Courts, eliminating $3 million in funding and 36 positions, a proposal in neither the Senate nor Governor’s budget. Those cuts were later reduced to just Family Court administrators, eliminating $962,910 and 11 positions. No cuts to Family Courts appear in the current proposal.

Legal Aid  The latest version contains no provisions for cutting or eliminating court fees that passed through the state bar to Legal Services, but does eliminate the $670,000 Access to Civil Justice grant. 

The Senate had previously proposed cutting the court fees passed through to Legal Services to the tune of $1.8 million. The text providing for these cuts did not appear in a subsequent  compromise draft of the budget (as of June 13).

Public Defender The appropriation for administrative costs at Indigent Defense Services is cut by $466,380.

Both the House and Senate cut funds for indigent defense administrative costs in previous budget versions — the House by $466,380, the Senate by $233,190 (including the elimination of the Public Defender Administrator).

State Bureau of Investigation/Crime Lab In the current version of the budget, SBI is transferred from Justice to Public Safety, but the Crime Lab stays put.

In an earlier version, the Senate also called for the transfer of the Crime Lab to Public Safety.

Three judge courts  Provisions making  substantive changes to the handling of constitutional challenges to state laws, requiring that all such cases be heard in Wake County by a panel of three judges selected from different parts of the state by the Chief Justice (similar to the process with redistricting challenges) have reappeared in the current budget.  Judgments in those cases will be directly appealable to the Supreme Court.

Those changes appeared in the initial Senate version but not in a later compromise draft of the budget (as of June 13).

For more on the initial Senate budget, read here.

For a further comparison of the Senate and House budgets, read here.

 

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It may be mid-summer, and the Outer Banks may evoke memories of beaches, lighthouses, and wild horses, but UNC journalist and educator Sara Peach reminds us in this must-read National Geographic multimedia essay (photos, videos and maps) that memories could be all that remain in a few short years.

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Among the scientists Peach interviewed is East Carolina coastal geologist Stanley Riggs, who contributed to a controversial report warning that “North Carolina could face 39 inches (1 meter) of sea-level rise by 2100, as glaciers melt and ocean waters warm and expand.”

As she describes, that report got a chilly reception from state lawmakers:

The report prompted a backlash from coastal developers and climate skeptics—and in 2012, from the state. Lawmakers in Raleigh considered a bill that would have prohibited state agencies from planning for accelerated sea-level rise.

Environmentalists were outraged, bloggers snickered, and even comedian Stephen Colbert weighed in: “If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal,” he joked. “Problem solved.”

Eventually, the state settled on a watered-down version of the law: a four-year moratorium on sea-level regulations, and an order for a new scientific study of sea-level rise, due out in 2015. In May, a state commission asked the science panel to limit its next sea-level forecast to 30 years.

The irony of the whole argument, Riggs says, is that the coast as we know it is already vanishing. “Sea-level rise and storms are taking out eastern North Carolina today—not a hundred years from now. They’re doing it today,” he says.

For more on the problems with erosion on the Outer Banks and the related access issues, read here.

 

 

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The U.S. Senate yesterday voted 50-43 to confirm Pamela Harris to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, taking the seat vacated by Judge Andre Davis, who assumed senior status in February.

Harris is a Georgetown Law professor and previously served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Legal Policy at the United States Department of Justice.

Harris moved quickly through the Senate confirmation process after being nominated by the president in May.

Once Harris is sworn in, the court will have its full complement of 15 judges. She will be the fifth woman on the court, and the sixth Obama appointee there — joining four Clinton appointees, three Bush II appointees; one Bush I appointee; and one Reagan appointee.

Here’s a little more about what Harris brings to the court from this article in the New Republic:

Harris’s professional experiences, by contrast, give her a uniqueand exceptionally broadnetwork of professional relationships. She has experience in the corporate law world, as she was a partner at a leading Washington law firm. She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Harvard Law School, and now Georgetown. She has served in the government in both the Office of Legal Counsel and the Office of Legal Policy in the Justice Department.  Her experience on the Board of Directors at the American Constitution Society for Law and Public Policy (ACS) gives her unique experience in an organization that is both a public interest and a social movement operation.

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Gay marriage 3

In a 2-1 ruling today, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which decides appeals from federal courts in  Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland — found Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The precedent from the ruling applies to all of these states.

Affirming a lower court ruling and writing for the Court in Bostic v. Schaefer, Judge Henry F. Floyd said:

We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support, and security. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the Fourteenth Amendment cannot countenance.

The decision is not effective immediately, though. Per the judgment entered by the court, the ruling will take effect after a mandate is issued in the case — “7 days after expiration of the time to file a petition for rehearing expires, or 7 days after entry of an order denying a timely petition for panel rehearing, rehearing en banc, or motion for stay of mandate, whichever is later.”

A petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court may also follow.

Several challenges to North Carolina’s bans on same-sex marriage are working their way through the federal courts, including two cases filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina in federal court in Greensboro.

Fisher-Borne et al. v. Smith was filed in July 2013 on behalf of six families across the state headed by same-sex couples as an amendment to a 2012 lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on second parent adoptions.

Gerber and Berlin et al. v. Cooper was filed in April 2014 on behalf of three married, same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their marriages. Because of the serious medical condition of one member of each couple, they are asking the court to take swift action.

“Today’s ruling sets a clear precedent for courts in North Carolina and is the most significant step to date toward securing the freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples in our state,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “Though there is still much work that needs to be done, this ruling has given an enormous boost to our efforts to ensure that all loving and committed couples are able to have the security and dignity that comes only with marriage.”

A third suit, General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper, was filed in federal court in Charlotte on behalf of same-sex couples and four national religious denominations – the United Church of Christ, the Alliance of Baptists, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and the Central Conference of American Rabbis – in addition to Episcopalian, Jewish and Baptist clergy from across North Carolina. The same-sex couples are seeking the freedom to marry and the clergy are seeking the religious freedom to perform wedding ceremonies for such couples. 

“Federal courts in recent months have made clear – emphatically and unequivocally – that it is unconstitutional for state governments to discriminate against loving and committed couples who want the benefits and security that marriage provides,”said Jacob Sussman, lead counsel for plaintiffs in General Synod and partner at Tin Fulton Walker & Owen.

The Court’s  ruling is the third federal appeals court decision upholding marriage, following recent rulings by the 10th Circuit in Utah and Oklahoma.

Utah is in the process of seeking review of the decision involving its law by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read the Fourth Circuit decision in Bostic here.