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A decision in one of the first cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this term may help thousands of North Carolina property owners whose land has been tied up by proposed but delayed Department of Transportation road projects — some for more than a decade — recover the damages they say the DOT owes them.

In Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. U.S., the Court considered whether the commission can recover for damage to its property caused by intentional upstream flooding by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The threshold question before the court was whether that flooding was a “taking” under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which provides that no private property can be taken for a public purpose without just compensation.

That’s also the issue property owners along the Northern Beltway in Winston-Salem have put before the court there in dozens of complaints filed against the DOT over the past year. Their parcels and some 2000 others lay in the path of the proposed beltway, spanning from U.S.158 north to U.S. 52 in western Forsyth County through to U.S. 311 in eastern Forsyth County. Read More

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The good government advocates at the Alliance for Justice have released a new film entitled “Unequal Justice: The Relentless Rise of the 1% Court.”  

The film “explores the growing pro-corporate bias in key Court decisions and their real-world impact on ordinary Americans. Steadily and relentlessly, the Court has been transformed into an institution that frequently serves the interests of the wealthiest one percent. Taking judicial activism to new levels, these justices have rendered a series of pivotal cases to fundamentally change the balance of power in American society, favoring business interests and limiting access to legal remedies for everyone else. These decisions threaten to undermine the core concept of fairness that is embodied in the motto carved into the Supreme Court building, turning Equal Justice Under Law into Unequal Justice Under Law.”

Learn more about how you can get a free copy and host a screening by clicking here.

Former state representative Stephen LaRoque appeared in federal court in Raleigh last week to face charges of theft and money laundering. Pending trial in Greenville at a later date LaRoque was released on an unsecured bond and restricted to travel within the 44 counties of the Eastern District of North Carolina. That has not stopped another case involving LaRoque from making it all the way to the Supreme Court in Washington DC. The spotlight will be on voter suppression, namely the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, not LaRoque, though LaRoque’s name and statements appear in documents submitted to the court, including statements referring to his status as a state legislator.
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It’s been a better-than-expected morning for caring and thinking North Carolinians. For now at least, the state House appears to have torpedoed Rep. Stam’s horrific school vouchers bill. Meanwhile, a few hundred miles up I-95, the U.S. Supremes have upheld much of the Affordable Care Act.  

These are both developments worth celebrating.

It’s important to note, however, that both victories were/are narrow and partial. The 11-11 vote on the vouchers bill does not at all appear to be a final nail in the vouchers coffin. To the contrary, the sponsors seem sure to try again — maybe even as soon as today.

And as for the ACA, preliminary readings of the court decision indicate that we are likely on our way to lots more knock down, drag out fights at the state level if the law is to achieve something akin to full implementation.

The bottom line: Progressives would do well to celebrate today’s events by redoubling their efforts to fight the extremists on the right who would take our state and country back to the 19th Century.  Let’s get back to work.

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowly ruled today that sentencing laws which require children convicted of murder to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole are unconstitutional. It is a sign of our times that such a modest ruling — one that still allows kids to be sentenced to life in prison without parole and merely permits judges to consider mitigating facts before imposing such a sentence — would even be controversial.

But, hey, we live in a world in which a Supreme Court Justice — in this case the amazingly reactionary Samuel Alito – can write something like the following (as he did in dissent): Read More