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At yesterday’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon on the future of marriage equality, Chris Brook, the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, made it pretty clear what he intends to argue in federal court when he next gets the opportunity in the organization’s challenges to North Carolina’s marriage discrimination law. Brook said he’s going to point to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond (the precedents of which apply to North Carolina), show the judge that court’s decision in the recent Bostic v. Schaefer case and then just sit down.

It’s an obvious strategy — namely, that the ruling striking down Virginia’s discrimination law in Bostic is right on point and there really isn’t much that a North Carolina federal judge can do but abide by it.

This is why Attorney General Cooper made his recent announcement that he would stop wasting North Carolina taxpayers’ money by trying to defend North Carolina’s indefensible law.  It would be a futile and costly gesture — not unlike attempting to defend a law that banned interracial marriage.

Of course, as Sharon McCloskey’s story immediately below makes plain, this patently obvious logic is apparently lost on Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis who are, quite remarkably (if one of Berger’s members is to be believed), taking steps to impeach Cooper over his utterly reasonable, constitutional and ethically-bound decision.

By all indications, Berger and Tillis simply want Cooper to tilt at the Bostic windmill and manufacture insipid, sure-fire-loser arguments as is being tried in a few other states. Today, we got a good idea of what some of those arguments would look like when the folks at ThinkProgress published a handy list of The 10 Craziest Arguments Two States Are Using to Defeat Marriage Equality.” This is from the post: Read More

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Sanderson-CooperState Sen. Norm Sanderson (R-Pamlico) told those attending the inaugural meeting of the Morehead-Beaufort Tea Party yesterday that the top leadership in both GOP-controlled branches of the legislature are working to remove Attorney General Roy Cooper from office, according to this report in The Carteret County News-Times.

Citing Cooper’s announcement in late July that his office would no longer defend the state’s same-sex marriage ban after the Fourth Circuit found Virginia’s similar law unconstitutional, Sanderson said:

“If he’s not going to defend what we, the citizens of North Carolina, want him to defend, we need to probably impeach him because he’s been a vocal opponent of the marriage amendment ever since it was passed.”

He added that steps are in place once Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis give the green light.

“Our leadership hasn’t made the final decision but everything is on ready, set, go if that’s what we want to do.”

Of course, doing what some lawmakers and citizens of the state want him to do is not the job of the Attorney General.

Here’s Jim Tierney, former Maine Attorney General and now director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School:

The simple truth is that attorney general refusal to defend happens all the time.

Legislatures are comprised in most states by non-lawyers trying to do the right thing, but they do not understand the complexity of constitutional limits. They are advised, but often plunge ahead — both liberals and conservatives — and make constitutional mistakes. It then falls to the attorney general to clean this mess up.

The attorney general is supposed to uphold the constitution – that’s his job.

And you want your attorney general telling the truth. If the attorney general in his view says ‘you’ve got some real constitutional issues here,’ I would think any governor would want to know that before he signs a bill.

 

 

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SmokestacksYesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling in favor of EPA regulation of cross-state air pollution from coal-fired power plants.  Today, one of North Carolina’s best-known and most respected environmental advocates celebrated the decision and the efforts of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in making the whole thing happen. This is from Molly Diggins, head of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club:

“In 2002, North Carolina, with bipartisan support, passed the Clean Smokestacks Act, which directed the State of North Carolina to seek similar reductions from coal-fired power plants upwind to those the state was mandating from NC’s coal-fired power plants.

Using the Good Neighbor provisions of the Clean Air Act, Attorney General Roy Cooper asked the EPA to get reductions from upwind states that were impacting NC’s ability to have clean air, despite the stringent cleanup standards in Clean Smokestacks. The EPA responded with protections for states like North Carolina that are downwind of polluting states. But their action was challenged in court. Read More

Lunch Links

Lunch sandwichHappy Friday, campers! With the dog days of summer going full steam, we’re sure a lot of you are staying at your computers these days rather than venturing out in the mid-day humidity. So, as a service to our desk-bound, PB&J-consuming audience, The Progressive Pulse is happy to announce the return of Lunch Links – a daily dose of quick takes that will connect you to the important, the aggravating and the entertaining. Enjoy!

We’ll begin with North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. One of the Triangle’s most intrepid journalists, Kirk Ross over at the Carolina Mercury, has the first thorough review of the wannabe U.S. Senator’s new campaign finance report in a story entitled “Speaker’s Senate fundraising raises questions.”

And speaking of prominent state officials pondering higher office, Attorney General Roy Cooper’s new activism in opposition to the voter suppression bill passed by the General Assembly is sparking speculation that Cooper is cranking up a 2016 challenge to Pat McCrory. If it’s true, Cooper would seem likely to be a formidable candidate.

And speaking of the current Guv, Read More

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Roy Cooper 3North Carolina Attorney General is generally a good guy who has done many good things during his long stint heading the North Carolina Department of Justice, so he is probably entitled to a boneheaded error or two.

If that’s so, however, Cooper more than used up his quota with the ridiculous and wasteful appeal he filed today in the “Choose Life” license plate case.

What in the world is going on?!

That he ever sought to defend this blatantly unconstitutional law giving favored government treatment to the views of anti-abortion advocates in the first place was an extremely questionable decision.

Hello?! Anyone at home over there in the DOJ? Earth to Roy: You are an independently-elected constitutional officer with some discretion in these matters. What if the reactionaries down the street at the General Assembly had passed a law outlawing abortion entirely? Would you have defended that too? What about a law that only permitted Christians to serve in the General Assembly? A law that sought to reinstitute Jim Crow?  Read More