Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Mother Jones explains the curse of GOP control in North Carolina

There are some things one needs not be reminded of — corruption, gerrymandering and voter suppression in North Carolina are not those things, according to a Mother Jones article released yesterday.

The magazine examines how the state’s electoral system has been “slowly sliding the rails over the last decade” since 2010, when Republicans won control of the House and Senate chambers.

For months, North Carolina’s political framework has been plagued by scandal—a serious case of voter fraud that rendered an entire election illegitimate; legal battles over gerrymandered maps and voter ID laws; and corruption implicating top GOP officials.

But none of that has come out of the blue.

Andrew Reynolds, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, is quoted in the article as describing Republican efforts in the state as a “cancer…at the center of politics in the state.” He is the one who penned the famous op-ed in 2016 declaring that North Carolina was no longer a democracy.

But Reynolds couldn’t have guessed how much worse it could get. “When you add all the stuff that I spoke about, and then they literally steal the election in the North Carolina 9th District, and then [North Carolina GOP chairman] Robin Hayes gets indicted for corruption. It’s like somebody’s making this up!”

As two elections quickly approach—a special congressional election in the fall, and the presidential election after that—the state is being forced into an inflection point. North Carolina is being considered a battleground state for national Democrats who hope to nudge it from purple to blue in 2020. As the state’s urban and suburban areas continue to grow, thanks to growing business and technology opportunities there, some politicos are beginning to wonder if that will be enough to finally tip the scales in future elections. According to a New York Times Magazine story that asked if North Carolina is representative of the future of American politics, seven of the state’s 100 counties have accounted for nearly 40 percent of its voter registration growth. Here are the biggest challenges facing North Carolina’s voting system.

The article delves in to election fraud in the 9th congressional election, the imminent U.S. Supreme Court decision about partisan gerrymandered maps, the new voter ID law and corruption unveiled recently within the state Republican Party.

Nothing they describe in the article is news to North Carolinians, who have been experiencing unconstitutional elections for the past decade. It’s still worth reading to catch up, though. You can find the full article here.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Early voting begins tomorrow for Republicans in 9th congressional district after absentee ballot scheme

Early voting begins tomorrow in North Carolina’s 9th congressional district, where the State Board of Elections found a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme” in the 2018 general election.

The Board ordered a new election after a four-day evidentiary hearing in February. One-Stop, in-person early voting begins tomorrow in the Republican primary election, which includes all or parts of eight counties – Anson, Bladen, Cumberland, Mecklenburg, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland and Union.

The early voting period ends Friday, May 10. For county-by-county early voting sites and schedules, go here. Primary Election Day is Tuesday, May 14.

The Republican Party is the only political party with a primary in the 9th congressional district, so only Republican and unaffiliated voters who live in that district may vote in the primary election. Voters registered with the Democratic, Libertarian, Green or Constitution parties are not eligible to vote in the Republican primary contest, even if they are 9th district residents.

If a second primary, or “runoff,” is necessary, it will be held September 10, with the general election on November 5, according to the State Board. If a second primary is not necessary, the general election will be September 10. If no candidate receives more than 30 percent of the votes in the primary, the candidate who receives the second-highest number of votes may demand a second primary. The top two vote-getters would be on the ballot for the second primary.

Ten Republicans filed for election in the 9th congressional district: Stevie Rivenbank Hull, Matthew Ridenhour, Stony Rushing, Fern Shubert, Albert Wiley, Chris Anglin, Dan Bishop, Leigh Thomas Brown, Cathie C. Day and Gary Dunn.

The candidates who will appear on the ballot for the general election in addition to the Republican primary winner are Democrat Dan McCready, Green Party candidate Allen Smith and Libertarian Jeff Scott.

Voters can check their registration information, including their eligible jurisdictions, view their sample ballot and check the status of a mail-in absentee ballot here.

Bladen County voters will also have other races to cast their ballot. The State Board ordered new general elections for Bladen County commissioner district 3 and Bladen Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor. Early voting for those contests also runs from April 24 through May 10. The general election for those contests is Tuesday, May 14.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Tomorrow: House members hold hearing on NC voting rights, elections administration

The U.S. House Administration Committee Subcommittee on Elections will host a field hearing tomorrow morning about voting rights and election administration in North Carolina.

The public meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the Centre at Halifax Community College in Weldon. The evidence from the hearing will be used as Congress seeks to reestablish Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was suspended by the U.S. Supreme Court.

There are two panels expected to speak at the hearing. The first panelists are the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Democracy NC Executive Director Tomas Lopez and North Carolina Central University School of Law professor Irving Joyner. The second panelists are U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Vice-Chair Patricia Timmons-Goodson, North Carolina Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake) and Forward Justice Co-Director Caitlin Swain.

The Committee has been holding similar hearings across the country. The North Carolina meeting will be livestreamed on the Committee’s website.

Voting rights and election administration has been center stage in North Carolina over the past several months — after absentee ballot fraud in the state’s 9th congressional district, there was a decision to hold a new election; voting rights advocates are also currently fighting a new voter ID law; and the U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding whether the state can gerrymander voting districts along party lines.

Courts & the Law, News

Cooper taps DPS official, ACLU legal director to serve as new Court of Appeals judges

Reuben Young and Chris Brook

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday two new appointments to the state Court of Appeals.

The new judges are Reuben Young, who currently serves as chief deputy secretary for adult corrections and juvenile justice at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and Chris Brook, who is currently the legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina.

“The work of the North Carolina Court of Appeals must instill confidence in the people of our state, reminding them they live within a fair and just society,” Cooper wrote in a news release. “These appointees will bring extensive legal experience to their service on the court.”

Both Young and Brook are registered Democrats. They are filling vacancies left by now state Supreme Court Justice Mark Davis (who was appointed to fill a vacancy left by current Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who was appointed to that role upon Mark Martin’s unexpected retirement) and Judge Robert Hunter, who retired April 1. The court will become an 8-7 Democratic majority.

Young previously served for five years as a special superior court judge and as Secretary of the NC Department of Public Safety. He also served as chief legal counsel in the Governor’s office. He received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his law degree from North Carolina Central University.

Brook is no stranger to North Carolina’s appellate system. He has been to the Court of Appeals many times in his capacity as legal director at the ACLU. He challenged the state’s anti-LGBTQ HB2 law and has been involved in many ACLU cases. The organization’s website highlights specifically his work to safeguard religious liberty in public schools, his fight against Amendment One and to narrow its potential collateral consequence, and his work to protect free assembly rights in Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention.

Brook previously served as a staff attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and as an attorney in private practice. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Neither Young nor Brook immediately responded to email requests for comment.

The Court of Appeals decides only questions of law, not questions of fact. It reviews cases appealed from lower courts for errors of law or legal procedure. Some of its cases can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Retired Justice Kennedy ’embodies’ rule of law, receives award at Duke

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy received the inaugural Bolch Prize on Thursday at Duke University. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was honored Thursday evening with the inaugural Bolch Prize for the rule of law by the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School.

“You have embodied the ideals of fairness, human rights and the rule of law,” said Duke University President Vincent Price.

Judge Allyson K. Duncan, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, praised the retired Justice’s international work and his sharing of best practices, critical work to preserving the rule of law, she said.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Allyson Duncan honored retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on Thursday for his dedication to the rule of law. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

His former colleague, current U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito highlighted his service and dedication to many, many cases — in his 30 years on the high court, he authored 266 opinions of the court and 544 in all; he sat on more than 2,400 cases, he said.

Alito also said Kennedy was about the lesson of civility and was always dedicated to the perseverance of human humility and humanity. He also called attention to Kennedy’s dedication to always hearing both sides of every argument.

“It’s vitally important in our legal system that both sides be heard,” he said. “I don’t know anybody whose work embodies ore open mindedness.”

Kennedy has served in numerous positions during his career, including a member of the California Army National Guard in 1961, the board of the Federal Judicial Center from 1987 to 1988, and two committees of the Judicial Conference of the United States: the Advisory Panel on Financial Disclosure Reports and Judicial Activities, subsequently renamed the Advisory Committee on Codes of Conduct, from 1979 to 1987, and the Committee on Pacific Territories from 1979 to 1990, which he chaired from 1982 to 1990.

He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 1975. President Ronald Reagan nominated him as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and he took his seat February 18, 1988. Kennedy retired from the Supreme Court last summer.

Justice Samuel Alito, pictured on the right, attended a ceremony Thursday honoring his former colleague, retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Kennedy is widely recognized for his devotion to the Constitution and his efforts to share the ideals of liberty and democracy with students and audiences around the world. He has spoken frequently of his commitment to the rule of law and the need for a judge to always be neutral and fair, according to his Bolch biography.

“Through public appearances and teaching engagements, Justice Kennedy has worked to build public understanding of and appreciation for the role of an independent judiciary in a functioning democracy,” it states. “He has lectured at law schools and universities in many countries, speaking about the rule of law and the connections between economic and social progress and a system of laws that protect freedom and prevent corruption. And he has helped to develop educational tools about the rule of law and the role of the judiciary for students in the United States and abroad.”

At the ceremony Thursday honoring Kennedy, he spoke about how essential it is for the rule of law to be properly defined to defend freedom and human dignity.

“The law comes from the people to the government, and that law must human dignity and human freedom, and the law must be accessible,” he said.

The rule of law, Kennedy said, has been under attack and to fight it, the first thing people must develop again is a civil dialogue. Much like the glass award he received, the law can show new beauty and new dimensions when the light shines through, but it can also be broken.

“Once the rule of law is broken, it requires great effort to fix it, and you’re not as sure it will be as beautiful the next time,” Kennedy said.

Retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, pictured right, speaks Thursday to Carl Bolch Jr. and Susan Bass Bolch, who sponsored the inaugural Bolch Prize, of which he received. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

He added that he was inspired and honored, and would cherish the award to rededicate time to teaching and writing and continuing to advance the law, “that in the end must bind us.”

The Bolch Judicial Institute is dedicated to bettering the human condition through studying and promoting the rule of law, according to its website. Established at Duke Law School in 2018 with a $10 million gift from Carl Bolch Jr. and Susan Bass Bolch, the Institute develops research, scholarship, and educational programs in three focus areas: the rule of law; courts and judging; and law and technology.