Biden issues first pardons and sentencing commutations of his presidency

Wake County leaders unite to celebrate new non-discrimination ordinances

Elected leaders from across Wake County came together Tuesday to celebrate their unified adoption of non-discrimination ordinances. (Photo: Equality NC)

On Tuesday the Campbell University School of Law hosted elected officials from across Wake County as they celebrated new LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances in Raleigh, Knightdale and Morrisville.

Leaders from those communities signed a joint ceremonial document in support of protections from discrimination in employment and public accommodation in places like restaurants and hotels.

As Policy Watch has reported, the new ordinances became possible when a state ban on new local protections — including nondiscrimination ordinances for employment and housing — was lifted. The ban was a legacy of the  brutal fight over HB 2 and HB 142, the controversial laws that excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections.

Since the ban on new ordinances expired, 18 communities across the state have adopted non-discrimination ordinances.

Campbell’s law school has taken the lead in helping resolve complaints filed through the ordinance process.

Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina, applauded the signing in a statement Tuesday.

“Today we celebrated the commitment of Raleigh, Knightdale and Morrisville to making their communities inclusive of all,” Johnson said. “No one should have to fear bigotry based on their ZIP code, nor should they have to move to avoid discrimination. Having non-discrimination ordinances sends a clear and powerful message that all people are welcomed and included in their home communities.”

In its statement, Equality NC stressed new and proactive state and federal protections are still needed.

“We celebrate this commitment to equality and look forward to North Carolina being a stellar example of what diversity and equity look like in legislation,” the group said in its statement. “The momentum behind these signings shows that North Carolina stands ready, and we encourage others to communicate to their local leaders now is the time to pass LGBTQ protections, demand that our state lawmakers fully repeal discriminatory laws and enact proactive protections, and urge our elected officials in the United States Congress and the NCGA to support comprehensive nondiscrimination laws.”

As Policy Watch reported last month, North Carolina has so far resisted a national wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation. But LGBTQ advocates and Democratic state lawmakers warn of gathering momentum for such laws on the political right. With elections looming, the political calculus at both the state and federal level could soon change.

Federal judge in Florida throws out national mask mandate for travelers

At the White House, an emotional Ketanji Brown Jackson says, ‘We’ve made it, all of us’

Public defenders are the bedrock of our legal system. How Tom Cotton damaged that

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 04: U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson arrives for a meeting with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on Capitol Hill, April 04. Jackson was confirmed Thursday in a 53-47 vote. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Since it seems to have become something of a thing of late, here’s what the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says about the right to an attorney and the right to a fair and speedy trial:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

You will note that the nation’s foundational document does not say you get to “have the assistance of counsel” for your defense unless you’re an accused terrorist, or a Nazi, or, even if you’re Attila the Hun and you’re fresh off sacking some far-flung province of the Roman Empire.

Nope. You have the right to an attorney. Period. And, as further case law dictates, if you “cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” It’s legal chapter and verse that every American, raised on a steady diet of Law & Order reruns, knows by heart.

Unless, of course, you’re U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., a 2002 graduate of Harvard Law School, who took Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to task on the Senate floor earlier this week for her previous work as a federal public defender.

As a refresher, the Biden White House’s Supreme Court pick represented Guantánamo detainees — which, as a federal public defender, is something her job required her to do under the U.S. Constitution.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR)

Then, Cotton, a “no” vote on Jackson’s nomination, who almost certainly knows better, but wasn’t above a bit of posturing for the cameras, went one better, and brought up the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who served on the court from 1941 until his death in 1954.

“You know, the last Judge Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg to prosecute the case against the Nazis,” Cotton appallingly said, according to the Washington Post. “This Judge Jackson might have gone there to defend them.”

Jackson won confirmation to the high court with a 53-47 vote on Thursday afternoon. She will be the first Black woman to serve on the court.

Cotton was half right, according to the Post. The late Justice Jackson did step away from the high court to prosecute Nazis for war crimes at the Nuremberg tribunals. But he not only also supported the defendants’ right to counsel, he also played a key role in helping to enshrine the right to a defense lawyer into international law, the newspaper reported. Read more