Wednesday, August 28, 2019



[DURHAM] Last week, a 9-year-old boy was killed in a driveway shooting. Monday, six people were shot and wounded in four separate incidents. Tuesday night, a man was shot  and wounded on Nelson Street. Citizens are up in arms about the rash of gun violence in the Bull City. A Group called Chance 2 Changed rallied Wednesday night to demand that the city do more to prevent gun violence. Last June, Durham city Council turned down a police request for 18 more officers.

[RALEIGH] The Republican majority in the NC House and Senate are passing mini-budget bills on raises for state employees, and tax refunds for taxpayers, all in effort to get Gov Roy Cooper top cave in to approving their $24 billion budget without the Medicaid expansion he demanded. It has now been almost two months since the governor vetoed  the proposed budget bill passed in the legislature, and Republicans, without a supermajority, could not override.

[RALEIGH] This week, the state House approved Senate Bill 683, which strengthens restrictions on absentee ballots in light of last year’s reported criminal abuses during the Ninth District Congressional race. The bill also permanently restores the last Saturday of early voting. Lawmakers briefly took that away last session, only to put it back after a hue and cry from the public.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

A new report may or may not capture state Republican legislative leaders’ attention in their almost two-month budget standoff with Gov. Roy Cooper, but it definitely strengthens his argument for the expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, 350 people in North Carolina died “…because of the lack of affordable health care coverage,” and had Medicaid - government sponsored health care for low-income residents - been expanded, they may not have.
The NBER report adds that North Carolina is third in the nation per the number of deaths associated with the lack of Medicaid Expansion. Florida is second with 700, and Texas is first with just over 700.
[T]his data provides new and compelling evidence that the decision to expand Medicaid has a profound affect on the life expectancy of adults living in the coverage gap,” writes Alexandra Sirota, director of the nonprofit NC Budget and Tax Center. By expanding Medicaid for the needy, states are able to improve health outcomes, provide better management of health conditions, and improve the quality off life for those who otherwise would lack coverage.
“By linking death records and data on program participation and health outcomes across all states, the authors of this new report estimate the impact of Medicaid expansion on the mortality rate of near-elderly adults,” Ms. Sirota maintains.  “Their findings point to a 9.3 percent decline in annual mortality for this age group in those states with Medicaid expansion.  The primary reason for the improvement in life expectancy is disease management while under the care of Medicaid.”
On Monday, Gov. Cooper’s Press office accused Republican legislative leadership in the NC General Assembly of “dithering” instead of negotiating a budget compromise that would, among other things, expand Medicaid to 500,000 - 600,000 more North Carolinians, and finally send state lawmakers home from the long legislative session.
Republicans in the state House snd Senate, unable to overcome Cooper’s veto of their budget, counter that they flatly refuse to expand Medicaid because most of the people it would cover are able-bodied and don’t need it. They, instead, plan to carve up the much delayed $23 billion budget into smaller bills covering teacher and state employee raises, and also rainy day fund refund checks to taxpayers, daring the governor to veto those bills when passed, especially with the 2020 election coming up.
The political impasse is expected to continue way into September.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

The theme at Durham’s St. Joseph’s A.M.E. Church’s Sunday service was “Jobs, Justice and Education,” commemorating the fifty-sixth  anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington this week. It was Pastor Jonathan Augustine’s second “Social Justice” Sunday since arriving at the historic church last May. Among the special guests - Democratic presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) - the second black woman ever to elected to the United States Senate; NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley - the first African American woman ever to serve as chief justice of the state’s highest court; and U.S. Senatorial candidate and NC Sen. Erica Smith (D-Bertie). 
This was Sen. Harris’ second campaign appearance in North Carolina during a world-wind weekend that had her keynoting the 84th Annual Founders’ Day Banquet for the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People Saturday evening, and then scheduled to appear at a campaign stop at a local high school in Greensboro later Sunday.
At the Saturday banquet, while Sen. Harris was preparing to tell the sold-out audience that if elected president, she would financially support black homeowners, HBCUs and black businesses, a group of robed Ku Klux Klan members carrying Confederate flags and guns unexpectedly rallied in front of the courthouse in Hillsborough, just a few miles away in Orange County. The group did not have a rally permit, and quickly found itself outnumbered by local counter protesters.
Sunday morning at St. Joseph’s A.M.E., Harris - considered one of the top four Democratic contenders in the 2020 primary race -  picked up on part of her message from Saturday night regarding Americans once again fighting for their freedom.
“The measure of our strength is not who we beat down, it’s about who we lift up,” the former California state attorney general continued, also touching on how her faith in GOD has strengthened her, to thunderous applause led by several fellow sorority sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc. in attendance.
Harris later teased her old friend, Pastor Augustine, saying, “Yes pastor, I know you can’t tell people who to vote for but you can tell people who to pray for.” 
But before she concluded her remarks, Sen. Harris gave props to a fellow AKA sister, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who is running to keep her seat in 2020.
“If justice is to be real in America, one of the most important and lasting places it will happen and take place is in the courtrooms of America, and it will be by re-electing the chief justice of the Supreme Court of the state of North Carolina,” Sen. Harris said, turning to Beasley and then saying, “I’m honored to be sharing this moment with you.”
During her remarks prior to Sen. Harris’ comments, Chief Justice Beasley explained that in her role as “leader of the Judicial Branch of government,” she essentially oversees the state’s court system administratively, as well as hear the same cases as her colleagues on the High Court.
“It is on parity with the governor of the state of North Carolina,” Beasley said, referencing how the governor leads the state’s Executive branch.
The chief justice talked about the important issues the Judicial Branch has addressed under her administration, including the opioid crisis, juvenile justice, and school justice partnerships - where the courts are working with school systems to reduce the high number of students being referred for criminal arrests by the schools.
Beasley said those numbers have dropped dramatically because of the school justice partnerships to make sure that predominately poor, black and other students of color are not harnessed with criminal records that will cripple their futures.
The chief justice also spoke of the partnerships between faith-based institutions and the courts to “help make our communities successful.”
“So I ask you so very much for your support, your prayers, your vote, but not just your vote, but we need to tell everybody across the state, because this is a statewide election, to support Cheri Beasley for chief justice.”

By Al McSurely and Cash Michaels
Contributing writers

[GREENVILLE] A black man, wrongly tried and convicted at age 19 of a murder 25 years ago he did not commit, was finally released from prison last week, thanks to the tireless efforts of his mother, the NCNAACP, and activists across North Carolina.
In a Pitt County Courthouse courtroom filled with family and supporters last Thursday, Dontae Sharpe smiled wide and threw both fists up in the air when Pitt County prosecutors, during a second evidentiary hearing in the case, declined to retry him for the 1994 shooting death of George Radcliffe, a crime Sharpe has always declared his innocence of.
A witness who was 14 years-old at the time of the murder, testified now that she was forced by police to testify against Sharpe during his 1995 trial, and was recanting that testimony now, saying the she never saw Sharpe shoot anyone.  No physical evidence ever linked Sharpe to the crime. 
Calling that original murder trial “a nightmare,” veteran Raleigh criminal defense attorney Joe Cheshire of Raleigh, reviewed that trial’s transcript, and testified as an expert witness now that Sharpe was essentially railroaded. He said in his 42 years of defending people charged with heinous crimes, the racism and corruptness in  eastern North Carolina courts--where the largest concentration of poor and black people live in NC, remains a major problem in the state’s criminal justice system. 
And last May, defense attorneys presented scientific evidence from the State Medical Examiner at the time of the murder, that proved Sharpe was not the man who shot Radcliffe.
As had been worked out beforehand, the Assistant District Attorney for Pitt County announced that the State did not believe, given the new evidence, that it could successfully prosecute Sharpe and therefore the State "dismissed all charges" against him.  A split second later an explosion of human emotion ripped the courtroom. Dontae and his mother, Sarah Blakely, hugged and cried.  Deputies took him to a holding room. A few minutes later, the bailiff handed a copy of the judge's Order to Sharpe. "Keep this with you," he told Sharpe.  “You are free to go."
“What we saw was the court doing exactly what the law is supposed to do,” said defense attorney Catlin Swain after the judge decided trelease Sharpe after prosecutors decided not to retry the case.  Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NCNAACP and staunch supporter of the “Free Donte Sharpe’ movement, led a public prayer of thanksgiving afterwards.
‘The struggle for Dontae to re-enter the corrupt-racist culture on the outside is the second stage of this struggle,”  Rev. Spearman told supporters. “We who, by the grace of God, remained free while he was imprisoned for a quarter century must immediately step up our efforts to reform the corrupt-racist NC criminal justice system, and give Dontae plenty of room to get his bearings before he decides how to contribute his insights to  the struggle." 
But Dontae Sharpe’s mother, Sarah Blakely, was just happy to have her son, after 25 years, back home.
" There's plenty of time to plan the next part of the struggle. Today, let us give thanks.  To God. To the Legal Team from the Duke Innocence Project. To Dontae, for providing a strong example in moral courage and faith.  To our NAACP Friends, Rev. Barber and Rev. Spearman, and all the Moral Monday people who came out. To the Coalition Against Racism. And particularly to Attorney Caitlin Swain and Forward Justice. Today we say,  Hallelujah!.  The next phase of the struggle can wait a few days."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


[RALEIGH] It is now up to Gov. Roy Cooper whether a measure passed by the NC House this week requiring NC sheriffs to honor detention requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for illegal immigrants will become law. The state Senate passed the law in June. Sheriffs in Durham, Wake, Guilford and there counties refused to hold immigrant suspects for ICE agents, saying it was against the law. Republican lawmakers threatened to punish those sheriffs who didn’t comply. If Cooper allows the law to stand, sheriffs can be removed from office for obeying.

[WINSTON-SALEM] Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has now officially entered the GOP primary for governor, joining Rep. Holly Grange of Wilmington. During a speech at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds a week ago, Forest said as governor, he would create “a new vision” for North Carolina that would reject socialism, identity politics and abortion rights. Forest seeks to unseat Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

[RALEIGH] Hundreds of temporary and contractual workers are now facing pink slips from the NC Dept. of Transportation, due to the high costs of repairing roads after hurricane damage and settling a large lawsuit. More than 1,000 positions are on the block, including construction inspectors, contractors and pot hole laborers. A spokesman says the layoffs will be temporary, with most expected to be rehired next year.
                                  UNC LAW PROFFESSOR RICHARD MYERS

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

After realizing that his initial pick for the federal judicial seat in North Carolina’s Eastern District, Raleigh Attorney Thomas Farr, will not be confirmed, Pres. Donald Trump has nominated a conservative UNC-Chapel Hill law school professor instead. And while both Republican North Carolina U.S. senators praise the choice, the president of the NC NAACP has expressed his concerns, and maybe gearing up to fight this nomination as well.
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, president of the NCNAACP called Professor Richard Myers , Trump’s new nominee announced just last week, a “…thoroughly good gopher for injustice.”
Rev. Spearman and others in the progressive movement are alarmed that in the past two and-a-half-years since Trump has taken office, the U.S. Senate, under the leadership of Republican Senate Majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has confirmed over 160 nominees to the federal bench, including two to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Couple that with the fact that McConnell defiantly blocked several nominees from Democratic President Barack Obama while he was in office, and progressives like Spearman are geared up go fight every Trump nominee that is presented.
As of now, Professor Myers, a registered Republican,  is on that list.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Myers’ family moved to Wilmington in his youth. Graduating from UNC-Wilmington, he worked as a reporter for a Wilmington newspaper 1991-95, and  earned his law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1998, later joining the law school there.
Myers’ eventually clerked for conservative Judge David Sentelle on the D.C. Court of Appeals. Sentelle, a North Carolina native, according to NCNAACP Pres. Spearman, had a close association with conservative U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), and was seen as a federal jurist conservatives could count on.
Myers also worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Justice Dept., focusing on white collar crime.
I believe he will serve the Eastern District honorably, and I look forward to the Senate’s consideration of this well-qualified nominee,” Sen. Burr said in a statement.
Sen. Tillis also lauded Myers.
“Professor Myers’ extensive experience serving in the Department of Justice prosecuting white collar and violent crime, as well as his well-deserved reputation as one of our state’s best legal scholars provide him with the background and qualifications required to serve the Eastern District with distinction. I look forward to advancing his nomination through the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
But Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1) wants to know more about Myers.
“The Eastern District deserves diversity on the Federal bench,” Butterfield said in a statement. “There has never been an African American judge in the district despite having a minority population greater than 30%.  President Obama attempted on two occasions to achieve racial diversity in the Eastern District, but on both occasions the nominations were blocked by Republican Senators.”
“I'm confident that President Trump consulted with Senator Burr and Senator Tillis prior to making this nomination,” Butterfield continued. “Our senators should have pushed for integrating the Court.
“I will use all available means of researching the background and qualifications of this nominee.  There must be a thorough vetting prior to Senate consideration.”
Without that as his legal pedigree, Spearman says  it’s no wonder both North Carolina U.S. senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis recommended Myers to Pres. Trump.
With this man in a lifetime spot in the Eastern District, we can be assured that there will be no judicial independence coming from that bench,” Spearman said in a statement. “He will be a thoroughly good gopher for injustice and a tremendously bad champion for justice.”

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

In 2013, the NC General Assembly repealed the NC Racial Justice Act (RJA) - a law signed by then Gov. Beverly Perdue in 2009 that converted death sentences for convicted murderers, to life in prison without parole if they could present evidence proving that their sentencing was the result of racial discrimination in jury selection.
The RJA was initially enacted because of mounting evidence prosecutors across North Carolina were finding ways to block qualified African Americans f2.5 times more than whites from juries in capital cases, even though doing so violated federal law.
The result was that black defendants were being convicted by all-white juries on the basis race, regardless of what the evidence in the case showed. But the Republican-led NC General Assembly, along with then GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, repealed the RJA in 2013, rejecting solid evidence that racism was prevalent in capital punishment cases.
On August 26th and 27th of next week,  the NC Supreme Court will hear arguments in six death penalty cases where the death sentences were converted by the RJA to life sentences, only to be converted back to death once the law was repealed.
In 2012, the first four death penalty cases considered under the RJA were converted to life in prison. Three of the cases involved all-white juries. But because of procedural errors, new hearings were supposed to take place. However, once the RJA was repealed, there were no new hearings, and the death sentences were reinstated.
Next week, the state’s High Court will consider whether to reinstate the life sentences, or grant the new hearings that never took place place.
The remaining two cases will argue that because those death row defendants did file claims under the RJA before it was repealed, they are also entitled to present evidence of racial discrimination in their jury selections, and thus, should have their death sentences commuted to life-without-parole.
“The court must answer a key question for North Carolina,” said David Weiss, a staff attorney with Durham’s Center for Death Penalty Litigation, one of several law firms that represents the RJA defendants. “Will our state abide by its constitution and confront the evidence that race has played an unacceptable role in death penalty trials? Or will we throw the evidence away without a hearing and send the message that pervasive racial bias doesn’t matter, even in life-and-death trials?”
“Jury discrimination is one of the key civil rights issues of our time,” said Jin Hee Lee, Senior Deputy Director of Litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which filed a brief in support of the RJA cases. Founded by Thurgood Marshall, LDF becomes involved in cases when they present a chance to advance racial justice. Lee continued, “It threatens the integrity of our justice system and our democracy when we allow black citizens to be illegally barred from jury service. We hope North Carolina will give the evidence in these capital cases the serious consideration it deserves, and take needed steps to end race discrimination in North Carolina’s death penalty.”

Tuesday, August 13, 2019


[RALEIGH] A Wake County Superior Court judge is yet to her arguments pertaining to the outcome of the Nov. 3rd, 2018 Columbus County sheriff’s race between Democrat incumbent Lewis Hatcher and Republican challenger Jody Greene. Greene beat Hatcher by 37 votes, but his residency was challenged before both the county and state boards of elections. The county ruled against Greene, but the state Elections Board ruled for Greene that he was a resident. The Columbus County Democratic Party appealed that decision to Wake Superior Court, claiming that Greene’s RV should not legally qualify was a domicile under North Carolina. As of Tuesday, there was no update.

[RALEIGH] Gov. Roy Cooper has appointed former State Board of Elections member Damon Circosta to serve on the current SBOE, replacing former Chairman Bob Cordle after he resigned last week in the aftermath of telling an off-color joke at a state conference. Upon his appointment, Circosta was immediately and unanimously voted the new chair of the SBOE. He has served as the executive director of the A. J. Fletcher Foundation since 2012.

[SILER CITY] A new black-owned Siler City restaurant was the target of a a racist hate letter last week that threatened the owners to leave town. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office is trying to determine who sent the letter to A & I’s Chicken Shack, and owner Andre Chaney. The hate missive contained several racial slurs, an told Chaney to leave town “or we will help you.” When word of the hate letter became public, the response was so overwhelming in terms of support, the store literally sold out of supplies by Sunday.


As NC Chief Justice Cheri Beasley speaks during School Justice Partnership press conference Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper and other official listen.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

In an effort too keep troubled school students in the classroom and out of court and jail, Gov. Roy Cooper and Chief Justice Cheri Beasley were joined local judges, law enforcement, teachers, school officials and district attorneys Monday in Gibsonville to announce the School Justice Partnership (SJP).
‘School discipline has changed considerably in the last 20 years and students today are more likely to be arrested and sent to court for misbehavior that used to be handled with a trip to the principal’s office,” Chief Justice Beasley said in a prepared statement Monday. 
“School Justice Partnerships create a space for teachers, principals and school resource officer to think differently about discipline and to redirect behavior so that these young people can see that they have a chance to be successful, to believe in themselves, and dream big for their futures.”
Without this program, the problem is real. Forty percent of all juvenile justice system referrals come from schools. Suspensions and expulsions increase the likelihood that affected students will soon find themselves entangled with the law.
And it also increases the likelihood of a lifetime pattern of criminal activity, and arrests going into adulthood.
In addition, fires show, students of color are 2.5 times likely to be referred to juvenile court, and 1.5 times more likely than whites to be placed in secure confinement. African Americans comprise 57 percent of suspensions, even though they are 26 percent of the total student population.
The SJP Toolkit, introduced Monday, can help local schools, law enforcement and judicial systems adequately address emerging student problems, Gov. Cooper told reporters.
“Our communities must engage with kids to help keep them in school and out of jail. The Toolkit planned by the Judicial Branch can help build positive partnerships and I have directed the Juvenile Justice Section of the Department of Public Safety to help with implementing School Justice Partnerships across North Carolina,” the governor said.
Ultimately, state and local officials are looking for dramatic decreases in the number of school-based juvenile justice referrals made to the court system.
SJPs are already underway in 15 judicial districts representing 35 counties across the state, including Guilford, New Hanover, New Brunswick, Mecklenburg and Wayne.

                                                            REP. MAJEED

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Amid two recent national tragedies - mass shootings where the majority of victims targeted were Hispanic and African American - along with racist letters suggesting violence against two black Charlotte County commissioners, and a Siler City restaurant, there’s little question that the racial atmosphere across the country, and here in North Carolina, is getting more tense everyday.
Many observers blame the harsh political rhetoric of President Donald Trump, noting his recent remarks calling the black neighborhoods of Baltimore “infested,” and inspiring a July 15th “Send her back” chant  during a political rally in Greenville that targeted Somali-born U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
But even before these recent events, state Rep. Nasif Majeed of Charlotte filed a bill in the NC General Assembly that would make hate crimes in the state  a felony, instead of the current misdemeanor.
House Bill 312 - the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, filed back on March 11th of this year, has thus far been held in the House Judiciary Committee, with not much movement.
According to language from the measure, this is, “…an act to increase the scope and punishment of hate crimes; to require the State Bureau of Investigation to create and maintain a hate crimes statistics database; to require the NC Justice academy to develop and provide law enforcement officers with training on identifying, responding to, and reporting hate crimes, an to require the Conference of Districts Attorneys of NC to develop and provide training to prosecutors on how to prosecute hate crimes.”
The bill continues that “If any Class A1 or Class 1 misdemeanor offense is committed because of the victim’s race, ethnicity, color, religion, nationality, country of origin, gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, or sexual orientation, the offender shall be guilty of a Class H felony.”
The measure, if passed, would also allow either for the victim, or a immediate family member of the victim, to file a civil suit to “…obtain appropriate relief from the person who committed the offense…”
In published reports, Rep. Masjeed says given all that’s going on in the nation an d North Carolina, there is no better time than now to pass hi legislation.
However, the Charlotte first-term Democrat is well aware that he’s in the minority in the Republican-led state House. He’s also aware that Republican lawmakers - just like the ones in congress - traditionally have dragged their feet when it comes to any kind of hate crimes laws, or laws regarding gun safety or keeping high powered weapons out of the hands of those not qualified to have them.
Thus, Majeed’s bill, though comprehensive, is not expected to go very far this year. And he doesn’t see Pres. Trump’s consistent negative rhetoric helping matters, either.
“What he says certainly doesn’t help and is fuel to the fire,” Majeed notes.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019



[MURPHY] A billboard sponsored by a local gun shop that targeted for anti-Trump congresswomen of color was taken down Monday after the double mass murders in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Cherokee Guns had initially erected the controversial sign to protest the liberal and “socialist’ views of congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-Minn), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tiaib (D-MI), also known as “The Squad.” The congresswomen had been criticized by Pres. Donald Trump for alleged speaking out against America.  A spokesperson for the gun shop said the billboard was taken down because of death threats online.

[RALEIGH] Seven suspects alleged to have illegally tampered with absentee ballots during the November 2018 elections in Bladen County, were formally charged in court Monday. The alleged ringleader, McCrae Dowless was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice, illegal possession of an absentee ballot, perjury and solicitation to commit perjury - all felonies. Dowless allegedly paid people working for him to collect the ballots, or complete filling them out for voters. Other suspects - alleged accomplices of Dowless - were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and illegal possession of an absentee ballot.

[RALEIGH] On Monday, Gov. Roy Cooper’s office issued the following statement: It has been 29 days since Governor Roy Cooper and Democratic leaders shared a balanced, reasonable compromise offer on the state budget to Republican legislative leaders. Republican leaders have still not responded to that compromise with their own counteroffer and they still haven’t been able to override the Governor’s veto despite their attempts to buy Democratic votes. The state budget veto and bipartisan Medicaid expansion remain stalled. Gov. Cooper’s compromise offer …would close the health care coverage gap, raise teacher pay, cut taxes for people and guarantee school construction while balancing the budget and saving money in the Rainy Day Fund.

 By press time Tuesday, there was no response to Cooper’s challenge. The $23 billion state budget remains vetoed until either a deal is struck, or Republican leaders convince enough Democrats to vote to override the governor’s veto.

By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Yesterday, August 7th, written concluding closing summary briefs were due from both sides in the controversial Common Cause v. Lewis partisan gerrymandering case by the three-judge panel which heard two weeks of testimony recently. 
A court decision may be evident in weeks, or maybe even months. Plaintiffs are hopeful a decision comes in time so that if it’s a favorable decision, there’s time to redraw the voting districts for the 2020 legislative elections.
But what is more likely, legal and political observers agree, is that the court decision will be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which will render the final decision.
Whether that will occur in time for the 2020 elections…no one knows. But the implications are stark. Whoever wins the decision may be able to control who wins the 2020 legislative elections, and with them, the right to redraw the voting districts that will govern the next decade for the state House, state Senate, and the 13 congressional districts.
Democrats could retake the NC General Assembly for the first time since 2011, and keep it through 2030.
But again, only if the majority Democrat state rules that North Carolina Republican legislative leaders violated the North Carolina  Constitution when they had a voting map drawn that was based on “extreme” partisan gerrymandering.
State Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), chair of the House Redistricting Committee, was sued by Common Cause NC, the nonpartisan redistricting reform organization, and the NC Democratic Party, both of which claimed that the Republican-led NC General Assembly’s 2017 redistricting maps violated North Carolina’s Constitution because the voting districts were deliberately drawn to deny Democrats any opportunity to ever win back the majority in either the state House or Senate.
The trial - which featured some of the now infamous Thomas Hofeller files of the now deceased Republican redistricting mapmaker who previously drew several racially-gerrymandered voting districts ultimately struck down by the federal courts - was highlighted by false testimony by a witness for the Republican defendants, testimony that was ultimately thrown out of court.
That witness was supposed to disprove claims by the Common Cause attorneys and witnesses that the GOP maps drawn by Hofeller violated the state Constitution. Republican lawyers claimed that Democrats basically lost in the 2018 elections in several districts because they just had lousy candidates, not rigged maps.
Furthermore, the Republican attorneys claimed, the courts really have no say in the matter, because in the political process, the voters decide.
Plaintiffs, however, argued that for voters to fairly decide, the rules governing elections must be fair. When those rules, in the form of redrawn voting districts that assure one party an absolute  certainty of victory over the other, then the rules have been skewed, thus violating the rights of voters of the other party to ever have representation of their choice.
Because the state Supreme Court is six Democrats and one Republican - a Republican justice who has already taken his Democrat colleagues publicly to task for allegedly being “AOC” liberals - it is generally assumed that the majority will side with Common Cause and the NC Democratic Party.
“At least three of the Democratic-backed judges on the State Supreme Court would have to join the lone Republican-backed colleague in declining to overturn the state’s legislative maps, and I don’t see where those three votes would come from among the six Democratic-backed judges on the court,” Wake Forest University Politics and International Affairs Professor John Dinan told Carolina Journal recently.
At the same token, if the state High Court, led by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, does come down against the Republican leaders, because several of them are also up for reelection in 2020, they will have to ensure that their legal decision is wholly legally sound and justified, given that the GOP would be sitting in wait to make political hay out of it if they lose.
Again, the three-judge panel has not made its decision yet, but when it comes, expect it to be immediately appealed to the NC Supreme Court for the ultimate decision.
By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

Top North Carolinians joined the rest of the nation this week in sorrow and outrage at the bloodshed last weekend that saw 22 Latino people killed in an El Paso,Texas Walmart Saturday morning, and nine people - mostly black - in a Dayton, Ohio entertainment district later Saturday evening -  all the latest victims of two alleged mass murderers with semi-automatic high capacity rifles.
And because of the alleged white supremacist leanings of the El Paso alleged murderer, North Carolina’s Democratic leaders, and some in the civil rights community, were quick to assign blame to Republican Pres. Donald Trump.
“It matters that this president has devalued the worth of people of color and inspires homegrown terrorists to release their justified white rage on innocents,’ posted the African American caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party on facebook Sunday.
“The randomness of Alt-Right terrorist attacks is frightening and proves that all of us are at risk, especially minorities. As long as we have no gun control, and a racist president, the security of our nation remains at risk.”
Both of the accused shooters were white males. Only the El Paso gunman was taken alive, and later found to have white supremacist leadings towards Pres. Trump and against Latinos.
The double tragedy came on the heels of Pres. Trump attacking Congressman Elijah Cummings last week as coming from a “rat-infested” city of Baltimore, Md. , and presiding over a Greenville, NC campaign rally the week before where the crowd shouted “Send her back,” mimicking Trump’s tweeted admonition towards Somali-America Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from Minnesota.
In 1963 George Wallace spewed his racist hate rhetoric and policies,” former NC NAACP Pres, and current co-convener of the Poor People’s Campaign; A National Call for Revival, Rev. Dr. William Barber, said on Twitter. “By [that September] racists emboldened by him were blowing up children in churches. President Trump is lying and spewing his racist hate rhetoric and policies. Now we have a mass shooter in El Paso. This has to stop.”
Rev. Barber continued, “Trump’s words and policies embolden white supremacy, but so does the silence of members of his [Republican] party and many religious nationalists. Their silence is complicity.”
Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC-12) agreed.
“I think he’s a hypocrite, “ Rep. Adams told Spectrum News’ ‘Capital Tonight” Monday after President Trump addressed the nation earlier, denouncing white supremacy, but blaming the media and mental illness for the shootings.
“He’s talking about what we should do, yet people are taking his example of hatred he’s talking about over and over again,” Adams bristled. ”So he’s setting a poor example.”
Her African American Democratic colleague, Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-1), called on his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to cut short their August month-long recess, come back to Washington, D.C., and pass needed gun control legislation.
The time for simply expressing our thoughts and prayers is over,” Butterfield declared in a terse statement. “After the 250th mass shooting in this year alone, now must be the time for action.  I join Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Leader Schumer in calling for the Senate to immediately reconvene and, at the very least, pass the bipartisan legislation the House passed in February that will strengthen background checks.”
Rep. Butterfield continued,  “Leader McConnell’s refusal to take up even the bare minimum legislation that could save lives and is supported overwhelmingly by the American public can longer be tolerated.  The Senate needs to do its job and immediately come back into session to pass this legislation. The American people deserve better.”
Even Gov. Roy Cooper demanded, in light of the double tragedies, the NC General Assembly debate and pass two measures - HB 86 and HB454 - that could improve public  safety across the state.
The General Assembly should move quickly to debate the details of these bills so that we can end up with legislation to keep deadly weapons out of the wrong hands,” Cooper said in a statement Monday. “I am also directing my administration to ensure we are doing what’s needed to try to prevent these tragic events.”
“HB86, the Gun Violence Prevention Act, includes several provisions to improve background checks and encourage safe and responsible gun ownership. HB454, Allow ERPOs to Save Lives & Prevent Suicides, would create Extreme Risk Protection Orders, sometimes called a red flag law, and authorize family members and law enforcement to petition a court to restrict an individual’s access to firearms if there is evidence that person poses a danger to themselves or others. Fifteen states have already enacted this type of law.”
The governor continued, “Both HB86 and HB454 have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Neither bill has had a hearing.”
Though Republicans generally didn't react to the mass murders, two prominent North Carolina GOP'ers said they were "heartbroken" by the tragedies.
        'Our hearts are broken today with the news of the deadly shootings in Ohio, just hours after the tragedy in El Paso," tweeted Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a 2020 candidate for governor. "As a nation, we must address the moral emptiness driving people to violence."
            Congressman Ted Budd of Greensboro also tweeted, "It was a hateful act of domestic terrorism and must be condemned to the highest extent."
            "We have to do more to end these mass shootings," Rep. Budd contused, vowing to work with his colleagues ' do just that.'