Commentary, Justice Denied for McCollum and Brown
Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Wednesday marks the 230th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit.

The two men, both mentally disabled and struggling to pay their bills, need the pardon from McCrory to be eligible for financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated. McCrory received the petition September 11 of last year.

McCrory has been busy of course, most recently taking an unannounced trip to Los Angeles where he appeared on a panel at conference Monday according to a news release from his office that was covered by most media outlets.

The news release did not include what McCrory was doing Saturday night on what we can only presume was a taxpayer financed trip, hobnobbing with Paula Abdul and other celebrities at an event called the Global Gourmet Games where he was rubbing shoulders with the stars to raise money for medical research.

McCrory was mentioned in the account of the festivities in the L.A. Times.

Paula Abdul said she didn’t think herself a food expert, but her table host Richard Merkin, chief executive of Heritage Provider Network, said that if the team had listened to her suggestions, its scores would be higher. As a vegan, former NBA star John Salley may not have tried all the foods, but as an owner of Vegan Vine Wines, he understood wines better than most.

Four-time Gourmet Games champion Stephen Cloobeck, chairman of Diamond Resorts International, shared his secret of success, a belief in “human capital.” And so this year, he stacked his team with a chef, sommelier and mixologist.

Other players included Guess Chairman Maurice Marciano, Bombardier Executive Chair Pierre Beaudoin, Hyatt hotel heir Anthony Pritzker, AARP Chief Executive Jo Ann Jenkins, “Blue Bloods” producer Leonard Goldberg, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, former California Gov. Gray Davis and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Meanwhile Henry McCollum and Leon Brown are still waiting for justice from McCrory and still struggling to pay their water bill.

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Commentary

Stan Kimer[Editor’s note: Stan C. Kimer is a retired IBM executive and former President of the North Carolina Council of Churches. He now runs a firm which offers consulting services around diversity management and training, and talent/career development.]

How critical is it to involve both the business community and the faith/religious community in promoting workers’ rights? And exactly how to we express the importance of this issue and the value of doing the right thing to these communities?

To answer those questions, I am excited to announce this new monthly guest blog series that I have been asked to write for NC Policy Watch.

In creating proactive change around any issue, multiple communities need to be engaged to drive optimal progress. This is true for one of the key issues now facing the state of North Carolina as we work to build a more prosperous state that delivers opportunity to all our citizens; that of workers’ rights. This topic includes such items as raising the minimum wage to a living wage, providing paid sick days, expanding family medical leave eligibility and providing pregnancy non-discrimination in the workplace.

To drive change in this far-reaching initiative, many different communities and constituencies need to be educated and engaged. Nothing truly can happen without a broad coalition comprised of many communities. Across our state, those of us working for workers’ rights need to connect with our politicians and elected officials, business leaders, the general public, educational institutions that are preparing our future leaders, other nonprofits, faith institutions, and probably a few others I left off this list.

As a retired IBM executive Read More

Commentary
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

Be sure to check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File“More guns, more guns, more guns” — which details the latest of gun deregulation nonsense at the General Assembly.

As Chris correctly points out in examining the legislation pushed yesterday in the House Judiciary I Committee by Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (of anti-abortion fame):

“Jobs may still be hard to come by for thousands of people in North Carolina and many folks who are working are earning less, but lawmakers want to make sure that virtually everybody in the state can now buy a gun and take it anywhere they want regardless of the implications for public safety or property rights.

Whatever the question these days, more guns is part of the answer.”

The bill, which was approved in the Judiciary Committee yesterday, will be heard this afternoon in the House Rules Committee. Stay tuned for updates.

Commentary
Todd Chasteen

State Board of Education nominee Todd Chasteen sits with book challenger Chastity Lesesne at hearing on Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. (Photo credit: Lonnie Webster)

It’s a crazy busy week at the General Assembly, so a lot of folks may have already lost sight of Gov. McCrory’s recent bizarre nomination of Samaritan’s Purse lawyer Todd Chasteen to serve on the state Board of Education. Fortunately, however, some rational people are speaking out about why the nomination is a very troubling development.

Here, for instance, is veteran journalist Andrea Krewson in a post on her blog this week, Global Vue, entitled “Todd Chasteen is the wrong nominee for the N.C. Board of Education”:

“Gov. Pat McCrory’s latest nominee for the N.C. Board of Education, J. Todd Chasteen of Samaritan’s Purse, fought to ban a book from honors English classes at Watauga High School in 2014.

Nominees for the board go through the N.C. General Assembly, and given its track record, it’s likely Chasteen’s nomination could go through. But it’s another example of the many troubling moves that hand leadership in North Carolina to extremists that don’t represent the values of many of the people in the state. The General Assembly should think twice before letting this nomination sail through….

His involvement in trying to keep a book away from other students should be enough to disqualify him from the N.C. Board of Education. Taken in the context of McCrory’s nominees over time, it’s clear that his nomination is just another step stifling the voices of many consumers of public schools.”

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Observer published the following excellent letter by Alan Crighton of Apex this morning: Read More

News

Supreme courtIn an opinion with implications for those states where judges are elected, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in a plurality opinion that states can ban direct solicitations.

In the case out of Florida, Williams-Yulee v. Florida State Bar, lawyer Lanell Williams-Yulee landed in hot water with the state bar after, in connection with her candidacy for a county judgeship, she sent out a mass mailing with her signature asking for contributions.

Williams-Yulee challenged a state law banning direct requests for money by judges, saying it violated her First Amendment freedom of speech, but the Florida Supreme Court disagreed, saying that the prohibition was “one of a constellation of provisions designed to ensure that judges engaged in campaign activities are able to maintain their status as fair and impartial arbiters of the law.”

Of the 39 states that have some form of elections for judges, 30 prohibit judges from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

That’s not the case in North Carolina — one of the nine states which allow judicial candidates to directly ask for campaign contributions from attorneys and law firms as well as other members of the public.

That’s been the law here since 2003, when according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the justices of the Supreme Court radically revised the rules of judicial conduct, without any input from the public:

North Carolina not only turned the political activity regulations on their heads—changing the basic canon from “A judge should refrain from political activity inappropriate to his judicial office” to the current “A judge may engage in political activity consistent with his status as a public official”—but also eliminated the Pledge or Promise Clause and the ban on candidates’ personally soliciting campaign contributions.

(The Pledge or Promise Clause prohibits judicial candidates from making “pledges or promises of conduct in office other than the faithful and impartial performances of the duties of the office.”)

The current judicial code of conduct allows judges to speak at political party events, personally solicit contributions, identify themselves as affiliated with a particular party and otherwise engage in activities “consistent with the judge’s status as a public official.”

Read more about the implications of the Williams-Yulee decision for North Carolina here.