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Commentary

In case you missed them, two commentaries on the main Policy Watch website from earlier today are worth a look this afternoon.

In today’s “Monday numbers,” Chris Fitzsimon lists some of the latest sobering numbers surrounding the unrepentant efforts of Senator Phil Berger, Rep. Paul Stam and some other troubled souls to block enforcement of the law in North Carolina when it comes to marriage equality. Example:

4—number of says since Fayetteville minister Johnny Hunter said at Rep. Stam’s news that John Arrowood, a candidate for the N.C. Court of Appeals who is gay, is a “flaming homosexual” who should drop out of the race (“Fayetteville minister says openly gay judicial candidate is ‘biased’,) WNCN-TV, October 23, 2014)

0—number of times that Rep. Stam has publicly condemned the comments or openly expressed his disagreement with them

Meanwhile in “Judgeships crowd ballot with bubbles,” commentator Steve Ford of the North Carolina Council of Churches explores the wackiness of the ballot that North Carolina voters are now tackling across the state (which includes a Court of Appeals race with 19 candidates for one office). As Ford notes:

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Commentary
Senator Richard Burr

Senator Richard Burr

In case you missed it, it’s worth noting that Senator Richard Burr uttered some eminently reasonable words yesterday when pressed for a comment on the judge who struck down North Carolina’s  unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn of the state Western District. Burr, of course, voted for Cogburn’s confirmation which was unanimously approved.

You can watch the WNCN.com video by clicking here, but here is a transcript:

“We try to put the most qualified individuals on the bench. I have no questions that Max Cogburn met that qualification threshold for me. And…uh…I think it’s once again proof that you can’t…uh..envision every decision that a judge is gonna’ make and that’s why putting folks that have the right experience on the bench is absolutely crucial.”

Dan Forest

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

In other words, those spewing absurd and incendiary comments like North Carolina’s Lieutentant Governor (who called Cogburn’s simple and rational decision applying the precedents dictated by the courts above him “the judicial fiat of one unelected man”) would do well to clam up and take a civics lesson.

Now, if Burr would just apply his own words by: a) halting his ridiculous and completely unexplained, one-man blockade of President Obama’s appointment of federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker to serve as the first African-American judge in the history of North Carolina’s Eastern District and b) condemning Forest for his ridiculous and inflammatory pandering, we might just get somewhere.

News
ACLU marriage equality

Image: ACLU of North Carolina

Court decisions have been coming in a fast and furious fashion in recent days — so fast that many may be left scratching their heads by Judge Osteen’s ruling yesterday on marriage equality.

If you’re one of the thousands who’s saying to him or herself this morning something like “What the heck? I though Judge Cogburn settled this last week,” the good folks at the ACLU of North Carolina issued a statement late yesterday that explains the deal:

Second Federal Judge Rules N.C. Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

GREENSBORO – U.S. District Judge William Osteen today ruled that North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional. He is the second federal judge to do so in five days. The ruling came in two lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn issued a separate ruling that struck down North Carolina’s marriage ban and added North Carolina to the list of states to extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Judge Osteen, who was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush, also gave North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger the ability to intervene in the case on appeal.

“Judge Osteen’s ruling is the second in five days to declare North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This second ruling further emphasizes that North Carolina’s now-defunct marriage ban was discriminatory and denied same-sex couples their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law. The legislature can attempt to pursue an appeal if they so choose; however, that would only unnecessarily expend taxpayer resources. North Carolinians can rest assured: the freedom to marry is here to stay.”

Background:

The ACLU filed the first legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage ban in June 2013 when it amended a 2012 lawsuit seeking second parent adoption rights for six families headed by same-sex couples. The adoption lawsuit, Fisher-Borne, et al. v. Smith, was originally filed in June 2012, just weeks after passage of the state’s marriage ban, known as Amendment One, which the ACLU lobbied and campaigned against. In April 2014, the ACLU filed a second lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin, et al. v. Smith, challenging North Carolina’s marriage ban on behalf of three married same-sex couples, one member of which has a serious medical condition.

Commentary

Some seats still remain for tomorrow’s Crucial Conversation luncheon - “Dirty money, dirty water: The end of judicial campaign public financing in North Carolina.”

The event will feature Billy Corriher, the Director of Research for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., where his work focuses on state courts and the influence of political contributions on judges.

Corriher will be joined by Chris Kromm, Executive Director of the Durham-based Institute for Southern Studies and one of North Carolina’s best-known muckrakers. When: Tuesday, September 30, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 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: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

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

News

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled today that Ohio’s attempts to limit early voting — a subject that will be argued tomorrow in front of the Fourth Circuit when it considers North Carolina’s recently enacted voting restrictions — are in fact unconstitutional. This is from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday affirmed a district court decision restoring early voting cuts and expanding early voting hours.

The ruling from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is a setback for Secretary of State Jon Husted, who had appealed a lower court’s order that he expand early voting hours.

The three-judge panel previously rejected a request to delay the court order pending Husted’s appeal. Husted then expanded statewide early, in-person voting hours while the case proceeded.

Civil rights groups and several African-American churches sued state officials in May over a new state law eliminating “Golden Week,” a week-long window when people could both register to vote and cast a ballot in Ohio, and a statewide early, in-person voting schedule that did not include Sundays. Attorneys led by the American Civil Liberties Union successfully argued in U.S. Southern District Court that the reduced number of days burdened low-income and African-American Ohioans who are more likely to take advantage of Golden Week and Sunday voting.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter C. Economus agreed. He ruled that once Ohio granted a broad scheme of early, in-person voting, state officials could not reduce it in a way that burdened certain groups of voters.

Read the court’s unanimous ruling by clicking here.