The NCGA is trying to take away our right to elect judges. If you are like most people the previous sentence is alarming, but you aren’t quiet sure what it means. CJPC is here to help you make sense of this important issue.
What is the law right now related to judicial elections?
- There will be no judicial primaries. This means you will not have an opportunity to narrow down the potentially long list of people who want to be elected as a judge on the November ballot in your jurisdiction.
- Each candidate for judge will also list the party affiliation. This is a recent change in the law. Many fear making our judicial elections partisan can politicize what should be a non political branch of state government.
Is anyone challenging these changes?
- YES! The North Carolina Democratic Party filed a federal lawsuit asserting the NCGA violated its free speech and equal protection rights by eliminating judicial primaries. Oral arguments were heard last week and a decision on whether to block the law is pending.
Why should you care about ending judicial primary elections?
- Because the elimination of primaries could result in having lots of names on the ballot. So, a candidate with just 30 percent of the vote could become a judge!
- Another reason to be concerned is because no legislature in the history of this country has ever eliminated primaries in partisan elections.
The North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (NCCRED), the Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy, and the Wake Forest School of Law Criminal Justice Program, present “The New Law and Order: Working Towards Equitable and Community-Centered Policing in North Carolina” on Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312. The event is free and open to the public. Four hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit from the North Carolina Bar Association has been approved.
On September 5, 2017, Donald Trump revoked the program DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). DACA was originally established under the Obama administration and allowed individuals who entered the United States as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. The revocation puts thousands of undocumented students at risk for deportation. For those currently in the program, their permits will start to expire in March 2018 – all Dreamers (those protected by DACA) will lose status by March 2020.
In response, the Advancement Project and Puente Movement Arizona have teamed up to fight the revocation. Puente recently launched a campaign – #CopsOuttaCampus – to remove school resource officers from Phoenix Union High School. Arizona state law requires officers to ask about a student’s immigration status once they’re arrested, so the only way to protect undocumented students is to get cops off of school campus. The Advancement Project works to support the campaign as well as the general effort to dismantle the school-to-prison and school-to-deportation pipeline.
To learn more, check out #CopsOuttaCampus on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Rejecting a plea agreement means facing the death penalty for the unlucky defendants in North Carolina who live in the handful of counties that pursue the death penalty. As of 2012, only 14 of the 100 counties in North Carolina have sought the death penalty at trial. Norman Kennard Carter, Jr., awaiting trial in Forsyth County, is one of the unlucky defendants. He is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Alphonso Singletary in September of 2016. Carter agreed to enter a guilty plea to life without the possibility of parole, but changed his mind during the plea hearing.
Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill’s office immediately requested to seek the death penalty in the case. The district attorney’s office has full discretion in deciding to pursue the death penalty. The presiding judge granted the request. Carter’s attorney asked the district attorney’s office to keep the option of accepting the plea agreement open until December 2017. The District Attorney’s office agreed to keep the plea on the table until December, but it has full discretion to revoke this agreement at any time.
In the last 10 years, Forsyth County is responsible for placing one out of every five people on death row in North Carolina. The question citizens should ask themselves is this:
- If the DA was willing to accept a life without the possibility of parole sentence, why would he not then simply proceed to trial without seeking the death penalty?
- If convicted, Carter will still face the life without the possibility of parole the DA felt was an appropriate punishment when it offered the plea agreement. Is it possible that the DA is punishing this defendant for not accepting a plea agreement by making him face the death penalty?
- Is this they way YOU want your district attorney to make life or death decisions about your fellow citizens?
At the time this piece was published, four people had been arrested in Durham for allegedly taking down a Confederate statue. They allegedly broke the law. Now let’s talk about justice.
History has painfully provided us with countless examples of how law and justice, though they are two related concepts, can be different. Far too often, they are. It is easier to denounce lawful injustice when we can hide behind decades of separation, so perhaps it can be useful to start with examples of individuals who fought for justice generations before us.
Many currently highly regarded activists of the past have broken the law in the name of justice, in the United States and elsewhere. History has been kind to the activists of the Boston Tea Party. Slave Rebellions were lead by currently widely celebrated heroes who not only fought for their freedom, but helped others escape slavery. Civil Rights activists of the 1960s who compromised their personal safety to participate in sit ins and marches parted ways with the law in the name of justice. And notably, they did not count on the law to be enforced in ways that would protect them. Many of us are far too familiar with images and stories of protesters being spat on, beaten, and killed with impunity.
And then there is the present. We cannot afford to lounge in complacency about what is happening in our country today. We cannot simply rely on hindsight when we discuss the distinction between law and justice. Hatred’s heroes have become much more visible, more powerful. How far will the law take us towards justice? Most importantly, what do we do when we feel that the law and true justice have parted ways? Who has the power to achieve justice?
The Carolina Justice Policy Center, in keeping with a commitment to true justice, wants to hear your thoughts. But more importantly, we want to hear what you are doing to enact your vision of justice. If you are concerned about justice in your community and are planning to do something about it, we want to help you share your plans and call others to action. Please consider writing for our blog by submitting your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “CJPC Justice Blog.” Let’s talk about justice. And then let’s make it happen.
B. Tessa Hale
Carolina Justice Policy Center
Person/Caswell County DA Wallace Bradsher has resigned. His resignation follows a nearly 10 month investigation into alleged theft at his office, as well as the office of prosecutor Craig Blitzer. Craig Blitzer resigned in March. The investigation has been conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation and has been lead by Wake County district attorney Lorrin Freeman. Freeman declined to comment on whether the resignation was part of a plea deal. The investigation involved allegations that in an effort to circumvent laws preventing Bradsher and Blitzer from hiring their own wives, they hired each other’s wives without requiring them to work. Governor Roy Cooper has appointed Jacqueline Perez, an Assistant Attorney General with the North Carolina Department of Justice, to serve as Bradsher’s replacement. Learn more about Bradsher’s resignation here and about Jacqueline Perez here.