STATE NEWS BRIEFS FOR 06-06-19
SENATE PASSES BUDGET WITHOUT MEDICAID EXPANSION
[RALEIGH] The Republican-led NC Senate passed it’s version of a proposed %$23.9 billion budget last week, giving 5% raises to teachers, almost cutting staff in Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s office, and not expanding Medicaid coverage for over 500,000 poor North Carolinians, saying that it would stop people from working. Both Senate Democrats and Gov. Cooper blasted the Senate budget. Now conferees from both the state House and Senate have to hash out a compromise budget in the coming days, and maybe weeks, before it can be passed by both houses.
REV. BARBER ON TRIAL FOR TRESPASSING AT NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY
[RALEIGH] This week, Rev. Dr. William Barber, former president of the NCNAACP stands trial in a Wake County courtroom for allegedly trespassing at the NC Legislative Building two years ago during a protest with other demonstrators. The prosecution maintains that Rev. Barber and 20 others refused to leave when ordered. Barber has maintained that he had every right, as a North Carolina citizen, to be in the building during business hours because he was seeking to speak with his elected representatives. The judge has already ruled that Rev. Barber can argue free speech rights, but not that he had a right to disrupt legislative business. The trial was ongoing at press time.
REP. ADAMS CALLS FPOR PROBE OF U.S. CENSUS BUREAU HIRING PRACTICES
[WASH., D.C.] Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12) led a bipartisan letter to the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Commerce expressing concerns about the background check and hiring practices at the U.S. Census Bureau in light of the Charlotte regional office’s employment of Kenneth Mabry, a registered sex offender. Congresswoman Adams was joined on the letter by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), and Representatives David Price (NC-4), G.K. Butterfield (NC-1), and Ted Budd (NC-13). The Bureau’s failure to adequately investigate Mr. Mabry’s background allowed a registered sex offender to occupy a position of public trust and receive a salary funded by our tax dollars for nearly one year,” The letter stated.
AG JOSH STEIN
AG STEIN RESPONDS TO BRUNSWICK
NAACP PREZ ABOUT WEBSTER SLAYING
By Cash Michaels
Brunswick County NAACP President Carl L. Parker, Sr. has responded to state Attorney General Josh Stein’s May 4thletter to him regarding Stein’s earlier decision to clear the state trooper who fatally shot 28-year-old Brandon Webster last January in Shalotte, with a blistering condemnation, stating, “… every day [the trooper] remains in his currentposition, we lose faith in your abilityto fairly apply justice in the State of North Carolina.”
“Where is your sense of Justice Mr. Josh Stein?” Parker continued in his June 4thmissive to the state attorney general. “With her attributes of a blindfold, a balance, and a sword, Lady Justice stands as a metaphorical representation of the moral force of our judicial system. However, the equitable treatment of justice in the case of Mr. Brandon Webster was grossly avoided because of the color of his skin.”
“Ironically, Lady Justice is depicted as a white woman,” Parker continued. “It is my fervent hope and prayer that she wasn’t a racist white woman in this case.”
As Brunswick County NAACP Pres. Parker expressed, there is still pain in the African American community. As previously reported by the Journal, Webster died after he was severely wounded by Trooper Scott Collins in the parking lot of a Shalotte mini-mart New Year’s Day. Webster, accompanied by a female passenger in his white truck, was shot after he drove around a traffic stop Collins had setup. After ordering Webster to halt, Collins discharged his weapon.
After a three-month investigation, state Attorney General Stein issued an April 12thdecision, indicating that Collins was justified in firing his weapon when Webster’s truck wouldn’t stop. Stein added that based on his review of video of the incident, Trooper Collins did not employ excessive force.
In a four-page scathing letter to Stein, Carl Parker blasted Stein for his decision, charging that based on all Parker knew about the case, Trooper Collins …intended to kill the moment he got out of his patrol car.”
In a May 4thletter responding to Carl Parker, AG Stein wrote, “ Like you, I am saddened by the tragic loss of Brandon Webster. Law enforcement use of force is an area of great concern for many, and one that I take seriously.”
AG Stein continued, “After conducting a thorough review of the actions taken by North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Collins, however, I determined that the evidence showed Trooper Collins acted reasonably in the face of a deadly threat. A reasonable officer in the same situation would have reasonably believed that the truck, rapidly accelerating toward him, posed an imminent threat of deadly physical force.”
“When the life of an officer or other person is threatened, an officer may reasonably respond with force in self-defense or defense of others. I remain committed to training law enforcement officers in de-escalation techniques and other strategies to avoid the use of force whenever possible.”
But in his June 4threply, Brunswick County NAACP Pres. Carl Parker chided Stein for how Trooper Collins reacted to Webster January 1st, effectively saying that Collins never even considered anything other than using his gun to stop Webster from fleeing.
Citing several incidents from across the county and country where law enforcement either used restraint in pursuing suspects, or where officers used violence on unarmed people and were subsequently charged, Parker made clear he did not appreciate Stein’s response.
“Your response letter to me was disingenuous, absent of sincerity, and pretended that I knew less about the issue of racial discrimination than I really do,” wrote Parker, later adding, “…Trooper Scott Collins showed a reckless disregard for human life by shooting into a moving vehicle killing the driver….While Mr. Brandon Webster’s body becomes one with God’s earth, the memories of his passing will hang heavy in the hearts and minds of all who remember that tragic day.”
In a further dismissal of AG Stein’s May 4thresponse, Parker continued to mock the state official.
“…[T]he parents of Mr. Webster missed your call and visit to their home to offer your condolences, “ Parker wrote. “Maybe you are afraid of their tears staining your clothes. Maybe the arms of your heart are too short or not strong enough to hug the emotionally spent parents of Mr. Webster.”
“Beyond the inhumanity of the shooting itself, as the parents carried their son to the hospital, his last words to his father were ‘daddy I am dying’ and to his mother, ‘Mom, I love you!’ And then law enforcement officers had the unmitigated gall to arrest both parents while their son lay dying on a stretcher in the hospital.”
But Parker did end his rebuke of AG Stein on a respectful note.
“Let us – you, me and the citizens of our county, walk forward together and not one step back,” he wrote. “How can we walk together except we agree for the best of all humanity?”
BUTTERFIELD CALLS FOR IMPEACHMENT,
ADAMS WANTS OFFICE INQUIRY
By Cash Michaels
While there has been no official move towards impeaching President Donald J. Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives, there can be no question that that Democrat-led body is moving closer.
Just two weeks ago, North Carolina’s two African-American Democrat House representatives – Alma Adams (D-NC-12) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) – just weren’t there yet, with both saying that Trump’s behavior in office was concerning and raised troubling questions, but they still weren’t ready to formally call for impeachment.
But last week, the proverbial light went on, with Butterfield officially calling for impeachment, and Adams saying she’s ready to move off the dime.
““The President has demonstrated a clear disregard for the rule of law and he must be held accountable,” Rep. Adams said in a May 31ststatement. “Impeachment is not off the table. However, before we move forward the American people deserve all the facts. That is why I support an impeachment inquiry. Congress has a sacred responsibility to obtain the information necessary to determine the next steps.”
With that, Adams joins fifty-four other U.S. House members – all Democrats except for Republican Congressman Justin Amash – formally calling for an impeachment inquiry – official proceedings by the U.S. House to investigate and present charges against the president of the United States for “ high crimes and misdemeanors, a vague constitutional term ” that legally covers a wide range of alleged offenses considered to be definitive violations of Trump’s oath of office.
But while Congressman Adams says she wants to examine what the facts for impeachment are, her North Carolina colleague, Rep. Butterfield, says he has all he needs, and formally called for impeaching Trump last week.
“The evidence that has been produced so far is sufficient in my opinion to support an impeachment inquiry and impeachment and removal,” Rep. Butterfield told McClatchy News Service May 30th. “I am prepared to vote for an impeachment inquiry ... and I will vote for impeachment and removal.”
Butterfield, a former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and NC Supreme Court associate justice, was reacting to the May 29thpress conference by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who told reporters That while his two-and-a half year probe of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections yielded no evidence of conspiracy between Russian agents and the Trump campaign, there was evidence proving that the president did try to obstruct the investigation.
But because of U.S. Justice Dept. policy, a sitting president could not be indicted for any crimes, and so Mueller and his team never charged Trump.
Like many other observers, Rep. Butterfield inferred from Mueller’s statement that there was only one other avenue through which Trump could be held legally accountable.
“The remedy is through Congress. He meant to infer that the responsibility for going forward is clearly on the Congress,” Butterfield told McClatchy, referring to impeachment.
Now that Congress is back in session after Memorial Day recess, Butterfield says he expects other House Democrats will also veer towards an impeachment inquiry.
Thus far, a majority of house Democrats are against impeachment, primarily because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged patience. She has accused Trump od “a coverup’ of alleged misdeeds in office, and maintains that impeachment is proper only after “all of the facts are determined.
Thus far, House committee investigations into Pres. Trump’s alleged misdeeds have been stymied because of the White House’s refusal to provide documents, and blocking witnesses.
North Carolina’s third Democratic congressman, Rep. David Price (D-NC-4), also issued a statement on Twitter calling for Congress to pick up Mueller’s baton.
“Special Counsel Mueller’s public statement made it abundantly clear that the President has not been exonerated and it’s up to Congress to investigate from here.”
FEDERAL JUDGE’S RULING IN
VOTER ID CASE BIG BLOW TO GOP
By Cash Michaels
A federal judge cleared the way Monday for the NCNAACP’s litigation against the law based on the constitutional amendment mandating voter photo ID to go forward without intervention by Republican legislative leaders.
The case is separate from the litigation by the civil rights organization pending in the NC Court of Appeals against the constitutional amendment itself. A Wake Superior Court judge had invalidated the amendment, saying that the legislature that put it on the November 208 ballot was not constitution because several members had been elected from racially gerrymandered districts.
State appellate arguments in that case are expected to be heard soon.
However in the federal case against the voter ID law passed by the NC General Assembly last December, the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Biggs is key because, according to attorney Irving Joyner, “From a procedural standpoint, this ruling will allow the case to move forward on a reasonable schedule without having outside private attorneys who are attempting to disrupt or slow down this litigation.”
The lawsuit by the NCNAACP was against Gov. Roy Cooper and the NC Board of Elections “…challenging the constitutionality of specific provisions of Senate Bill 824 (“S.B. 824”), titled “An Act to Implement the Constitutional Amendment Requiring Photographic Identification to Vote,” according to Judge Biggs order.
Suing the governor and the SBOE was a tactical decision by the NCNAACP, even though the GOP-led legislature passed the bill.
North Carolina voters ratified a ballot referendum during the November 2018 midterm elections establishing a constitutional amendment for voter photo ID. The Republican-led NC General Assembly called a Special Session, passing S.B. 824 based on the voter ID amendment, requiring voters to present photo ID beginning in 2020 (that has been delayed), only to have it vetoed by Gov. Cooper on December 14th. The legislature overrode Cooper’s veto on December 19th, 2018.
On December 21st, the NCNAACP sued the governor and the state Board of Elections, to be defended by state Attorney General Josh Stein. In it’s suit, the NCNAACP “ …challenged the provisions of S.B. 824 which impose voter photo identification requirements, as well as the provisions “that expand the number of poll observers and the number of people who can challenge ballots.”
From Judge Biggs order, “Plaintiffs allege that “[t]hese provisions, separately and together, will have a disproportionately negative impact on minority voters,” ultimately resulting in “the effective denial of the franchise and dilution of [African American and Latino] voting strength,” Plaintiffs’ complaint further alleges that the challenged provisions “impose discriminatory and unlawful burdens on the right to vote that are not justified by any legitimate or compelling state interest.” In addition, Plaintiffs allege that the challenged provisions of S.B. 824 violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. “
“Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent Defendants “from implementing, enforcing, or giving effect to the [challenged] provisions of S.B. 824.”
But in an effort to somehow derail the suit because they did not trust either Cooper or Stein to defend S.B. 824, both state Senate Pro tem Phil Berger and NC Speaker Tim Moore filed a Motion to Intervene with the federal lawsuit on behalf of the NC General Assembly on January 14th, 2019.
But remember, the NCNAACP never named them in the suit.
Neither Gov. Cooper nor the SBOE object to the GOP legislative leaders’ motion to intervene, but the NCNAACP does, stating that because neither Berger nor Moore were named in the lawsuit originally, they lack standing to be involved.
According to NCNAACP Attorney Irv Joyner, “The legislative leaders attempted to take the case over because they did not want Attorney General Stein and Governor Cooper to be in a position to make any decisions about the outcome of this litigation. They told Judge Biggs that they did not trust either Stein or Cooper to protect the statutes which created this voter ID requirement. In addition, they sought to delay the proceeding in order that there will not be a resolution of the case before the 2020 elections.
Joyner continued, “Judge Biggs ruled that the NC statutes gives the authority to handle litigation against the State to the Attorney General and the Governor and there was no proof that the two of them have refused to competently handle this litigation. The legislative leaders argued that Cooper had initially vetoed the constitutional amendment proposal and that act was evidence that he was hostile to this requirement, but Judge Biggs, relying upon federal law, ruled that this conclusion was not supported by the evidence.
“The NC NAACP is pleased with this ruling…,” Atty Joyner concluded, “… but recognized that the legislators may seek to appeal Judge Biggs' decision.”