News

Supreme CourtThe state Supreme Court today bypassed the Court of Appeals and took five controversial cases for direct review, exercising its rarely-used discretion and raising eyebrows over the timing, with contentious partisan elections soon getting underway.

The issues raised in the cases — school vouchers, coal ash, class certification — are hot buttons, and some of the parties involved have deep-pockets — including Duke Energy and U.S. Tobacco Cooperative

The high court took those cases despite having yet to render opinions in several high-profile cases — including the redistricting case, which has been pending since argument in January, and two cases concerning the Racial Justice Act, pending since argument in April.

Here are the cases:

Hart v. North Carolina:  This is the appeal of Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s August ruling that the state’s newly-enacted school voucher program was unconstitutional because it:

1) appropriates to private schools grades K-12, by use of funds which apparently have gone to the university system budget but which should be used exclusively for establishing and maintaining the uniform system of free public schools;

2) appropriates education funds in a manner that does not accomplish a public purpose;

3) appropriates educational funds outside the supervision and administration of the state board of education;

4) creates a non-uniform system of education;

5) appropriates taxpayer funds to educational institutions that have no standards, curriculum and requirements for teachers and principals to be certified;

6) fails to guard and maintain the rights of the people who privilege the education by siphoning money from the public schools in favor of private schools; and

7) allows funding of non-public schools that discriminate on account of religion.

The case had just gotten underway in the Court of Appeals before the Supreme Court’s order today.

Cape Fear River Watch v. N.C. Environmental Management Commission:  This is Duke Energy’s appeal of Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway’s March ruling requiring the company to immediately eliminate the source of groundwater contamination at its coal ash pits — in advance of any clean-up plans it might later adopt.  In its opening brief in the Court of Appeals, Duke Energy argues that the Coal Ash Management Act passed by the General Assembly in August overruled the lower court’s decision.

Fisher v. Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization (U.S. Tobacco Cooperative): This is an appeal of the certification of a class comprised of some 800,000 past and present tobacco farmers (per U.S. Tobacco Co-op’s brief) claiming to be entitled to and seeking payment from a $340 million reserve fund held and maintained by the cooperative.

Arnesen v. Rivers Edge Golf Club: Five cases are consolidated in this appeal, in which purchasers of vacant lots in Brunswick County sued the developer, mortgage broker, appraisers, attorneys, and BBT Bank, alleging a scheme to sell the lots at artificially inflated prices through “high-pressure, misleading sales tactics, fruadulent appraisals, unscrupulous lending practice and other conduct.”  Purchasers of the lots are appealing orders from the Business Court dismissing certain claims and defendants.

Cubbage v. N.C. State University Endowment Fund: This case concerns the pending sale of the Hofmann State Forest by the N.C. State Endowment Fund, which plaintiffs say was negotiated in secret and failed to comply with the N.C. Environmental Policy Act because the fund never obtained an Environmental Impact Statement. Wake County Superior Court Judge Shannon Joseph dismissed the case last November.

Commentary

The debate over women’s rights has been front and center in the North Carolina U.S. Senate race for months now — often with a lot more heat than light on the subject. I f you’d like to get up to speed on what’s really at issue in Washington — both in our high courts and in the halls of Congress, you won’t want to miss the next N.C. Policy Watch Crucial Conversation: Breakfast with Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center

NCPW-CC-2014-10-21-reproductive-rights-judy-waxman

Judy Waxman is the Vice President of Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center, where she leads the center’s team of advocates, who are at the forefront of major legal, public policy and educational initiatives to protect and advance women’s health and reproductive rights. Prior to joining the center, Ms. Waxman served as Deputy Executive Director at Families USA for over a decade.

Especially in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s recent and now infamous ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to hear from one of the nation’s leading experts in this critically important and fast-evolving field.

Cosponsored by: North Carolina Women United, the North Carolina chapter of the National Organization for Women and Women AdvaNCe.

When: Tuesday, October 21, at 8:15 a.m. — Breakfast will be available at 8:00 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $5, admission includes light breakfast.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

News

Some difficult news came today to Raeford, where the poultry processing company House of Raeford announced it was shutting down its remaining factory in the town it was named after.

raefordThe company announced it would close the the Hoke County plant that cooked and processed frozen food in the next 60 days. Approximately 400 people will lose their jobs, according to this report from the Fayetteville Observer. The company attributed the closure to a 250 percent increase in the cost of turkey and other ingredients used for the food products at the plant, the Observer reported.

The town, located 20 miles west of Fayetteville, and  surrounding area is still reeling from the summer 2013 closure of a House of Raeford processing plant, where close to 1,000 worked on assembly lines slaughtering and disassembling turkeys. As N.C. Policy Watch reported last year, many of those who worked at the plant came from the surrounding counties in a a part of the state dealing with  already-high rates of unemployment and poverty in the state.

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Commentary

It’s frequently the case with last-ditch efforts in politics that the groups or individuals trying to stave off the final chapter in an inevitable drama — the classic example would be the last days of a corrupt regime like, say, Richard Nixon’s — are forced to turn to a rather motley cast characters for support. Think about it: when the handwriting is on the wall and there’s dirty work to be done in order to cling to power or to fan the dying embers of a discredited belief system, one can usually expect some troubled (and troubling) souls to emerge looking for their brief 15 minutes of fame.

And so it is in North Carolina right now with the last-ditch efforts of state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger to block marriage equality in the face of an irresistible tide of court rulings. Faced with abandonment by responsible mainstream lawyers and advocates, Tillis and Berger have scraped the bottom of the barrel by turning to the rabidly anti-gay haters at a group that calls itself the National Organization for Marriage.

As the good people at the Human Rights Campaign explain here, NOM is an ironically-named outfit whose real goal is to marginalize LGBT people throughout modern society. Moreover, John Eastman, the NOM lawyer who slithered into handle the dirty job is a champion hater. This is from a Human Rights Campaign profile:

Eastman has a history of speaking out against homosexuality, and not just marriage equality. Back in 2003, Eastman pushed a very anti-LGBT/pro-”ex-gay” column penned by noted extremist Scott Lively (Google “Scott Lively” and “Uganda” and prepare to be mind-blown). In 2000, Eastman positioned homosexuality as, along with abortion, one of the twentieth centuries’ “twin relics of barbarism.” In that same year, he referred to gay-straight alliances as “incubators of moral relativism.”  He also defended the Boy Scouts’ gay-exclusionary practices in court, applauding the organization for standing against the “currently fashionable view that homosexual conduct is just another legitimate lifestyle choice.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has more on this scurrilous group and some of the people behind it here.