The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond will take a second look at alleged discriminatory policing in Alamance County, after the Justice Department filed its notice of appeal of U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder’s August decision dismissing such claims against Sheriff Terry Johnson.

In a lawsuit filed in 2012, DOJ alleged that Johnson and his office had engaged in a number of discriminatory practices in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, including targeting Latino residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, seizures, and other enforcement actions.

At the trial earlier this year, experts testified that Johnson’s deputies stopped Latino drivers up to 10 times more than non-Latino drivers along major Alamance County highways.

According to the ACLU of North Carolina:

Witnesses also testified about numerous incidents in which Johnson and other ACSO employees expressed prejudice against Latino residents, such as Johnson allegedly ordering deputies to “bring me Mexicans,” “put heat on” predominantly Latinos neighborhoods, and “go out there and get me some of those taco eaters.” Deputies were also accused of sharing links to what the Associated Press described as “a bloody video game where players shoot people entering the country illegally, including children and pregnant women.”

In his decision, Schroeder found that the government had failed to introduce any evidence of individuals who were deprived of their constitutional rights and relied instead upon “vague, isolated statements attributed to Sheriff Johnson.” He added that nobody testified that any ACSO employee carried out any improper directive or otherwise violated any individual’s constitutional rights.

“Indeed, all witnesses, including those called by the Government, denied that they ever did or knew any ACSO officer who did,” Schroeder wrote.

The judge also found that statistical analysis offered by the government was unreliable and not persuasive, “failing to sufficiently compare ACSO’s treatment of Hispanics to others who were similarly situated.”

For more on the case, read the story earlier this summer by Policy Watch’s Sarah Ovaska and this post on the filing of the complaint.



The U.S. Attorney in Raleigh has subpoenaed records from North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources  in connection with a criminal investigation into the massive coal ash spill on the Dan River, the subject of our recent posts yesterday and today.

The grand jury subpoena  calls for the production of agency documents by March 18  relating to the Dan River plant and the Feb. 2 broken storm water pipe that led to the spill, including among other records,  any applications by and permits granted to Duke Energy for that site;  records relating to the break; emails and communications dating from 2010 forward regarding discharge at the site; records generated after the Feb. 2 break; and records relating to any enforcement by DENR for Duke Energy violations at Dan River.

DENR spokesman Drew Elliot says the state will cooperate with the federal investigators.


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will announce today that the Justice Department is renewing enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in an effort to blunt the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the Washington Post is reporting.  That includes a possible DOJ lawsuit against North Carolina over the voting law changes pending in the General Assembly.

The decision to challenge state officials marks an aggressive effort to continue policing voting rights issues and follows a ruling by the court last month that invalidated a critical part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Justices threw out Section 5 of the landmark act, which protects minority voters by requiring certain states with a history of discrimination to be granted Justice Department or court approval before making voting law changes.

The DOJ attack will include efforts to “bail-in” jurisdictions having discriminatory voting laws, subjecting them to preclearance — as permitted under Section 3 of the Act.  The first test of that tactic will come in a pending Texas redistricting case — discussed in our story yesterday — where challengers have asked the court to consider their bail-in claim. The department will support that request and will likewise ask the judge there to require Texas to submit all voting law changes to the Justice Department for approval for a ten-year period because of its history of discrimination.

“It’s a pretty clear sign that a lawsuit against the Texas voter-ID law is also on the way,” Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman, said in the Post. Miller said Justice may also sue North Carolina if that state passes a new voter ID law.