Commentary, Defending Democracy

So-called “technical corrections” bill contains another partisan attack on Attorney General Stein

Attorney General Stein

Speaker Moore and Senator Berger

You really can’t make this stuff up. Apparently unsated by their previous transparently partisan attacks on Attorney General Josh Stein, the conservative leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly are preparing to punish Stein and his office again today during the latest rump special legislative session. Travis Fain of WRAL reports that a so-called “technical corrections” bill contains “language ordering the Attorney General’s Office not to delegate criminal appeal duties to local district attorneys, despite the fact that the legislature sliced the AG’s budget earlier this year. At the time, Attorney General Josh Stein said shifting duties would be necessary in light of the 11 percent budget cut.”

Did you get that? As Policy Watch reporter Melissa Boughton reported last month, the legislature inflicted destructive and unwarranted cuts on Stein’s office in the 2018 state budget that took effect July 1. Dozens of fine public servants had to be fired. In order to make sure vital work still gets done in such an environment, Stein announced that some criminal appeals duties would be transferred to local district attorneys. This is from her story:

“Before September 1, DOJ attorneys handled all criminal appeals, the prosecution of complex or conflict cases and “motions for appropriate relief” (MARs). In a letter sent August 2 to the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, Stein said his office would no longer be able to handle all of those things.

District Attorneys across the state will now handle all criminal appeals stemming from probation revocations and any misdemeanor other than a driving under the influence charge. They may also be required to handle MARs on behalf of the state, and Stein said his office would be cutting back on handling the prosecution of complex or conflict cases.”

Amazingly, however, this move will apparently not pass muster with the squeeze-blood-from-turnips bullies on Jones Street. Instead, they will apparently order Stein not to transfer these cases and, presumably, stop doing some other essential state legal work. Maybe they’ll direct him to handle the cases personally.

To make the whole thing even more remarkable and outrageous (and in keeping withe lawless manner in which the General Assembly now runs) this important policy decision will be taken without any notice, public hearings or opportunity for real discussion. Like essentially every other important legislative decision these days, the change was cooked up behind closed doors and will, effectively, be issued as a royal edict from Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger  and House Speaker Tim Moore, who now preside over state government like a pair of dueling crown princes.

Unbelievable.

 

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