JUSTICE EARLS FILES
FEDERAL LAWSUIT TO
By Cash Michaels
Associate Justice Anita Earls, the only African American woman on the NC Supreme Court, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that she is being "improperly investigated” by the NC Judicial Standards Commission (JSC) because she told a legal magazine that the state’s High Court had a problem with diversity on its staff.
Justice Earls, also one of two Black Democrats on the court until her colleague, Associate Justice Mike Morgan steps down next week, alleges that the JSC is trying to silence her with the investigation.
She calls it “clearly unconstitutional.”
"The First Amendment provides me and every American the right to free speech and to bring to light imperfections and unfairness in our political and judicial systems," Earls said in a statement through her attorney, Pressly Millen of Womble, Bond, Dickerson LLP.
"I believe that public confidence in the judiciary is best promoted by honestly looking at the facts, not by sweeping the truth under the rug or silencing dissenters.”
It’s no secret that Justice Earls has been a political target of even some of her Republican colleagues on the court, especially given her previous record as an outspoken civil rights attorney.
According to published reports, Justice Earls was notified on August 15th that she faced an investigation about her remarks in an article appearing in the legal online publication Law360 on June 20th titled “North Carolina Justice Anita Earls Opens up About Diversity.”
The very first sentence of the article states, “in an interview with Law360, North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls discusses what’s behind a glaring lack of diversity on the state’s appellate bench and among advocates who argue before her court…”
Ironically, the JSC apparently doesn’t read North Carolina’s Black Press, because Black newspapers in Greensboro, Charlotte and other markets across the state published a story about remarks Justice Earls made to those attending the MLK Weekend Celebration Breakfast on January 14th at St. Mary’s FWB Church in Apex.
As the Black Press reported, Earls told the gathering “…that currently, when it comes to recruiting and hiring court clerks of color, there are no African-American law clerks, “ and that was with “…anywhere from 15-18 clerks working for the state Supreme Court presently.
“Being a clerk, Earls said, can be a gateway to higher positions of service in the legal community,” the story continued. “But if people of color are not properly represented, “that has real implications for our profession.”
She also shared how an internal diversity committee that she participated in last year was disbanded recently. When she asked why, Earls says she was told there was no need for it, and what purpose did it serve.
Then she said she was told it was more important to “hire the most qualified people” for the state judiciary.
MORGAN INCHES CLOSER TO
DECIDING IF HE’LL
RUN FOR GOVERNOR
By Cash Michaels
Will soon-to-be-retired Associate NC Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan run for governor in 2024? Only he, and those in his tight inner circle know for sure, but one tantalizing clue is the New Bern Democrat’s recent announcement that he is stepping down from the North Carolina High Court next week.
That in and of itself doesn’t confirm Morgan’s intention. But it does give Gov. Cooper, who legally cannot run for a third term, ample time to appoint another capable Democrat to fill out the remainder of Justice Morgan’s eight-year term, and possibly then run for election at the end of it.
Right now, Justice Morgan is only one of two Democrats serving on the seven-member State Supreme Court, along with Associate Justice Anita Earls. Both are African Americans.
So make no mistake that Morgan will not be saying anything about a possible gubernatorial run until he is ready. And until he officially steps down from the high bench, because he believes in maintaining the dignity and integrity of the state Supreme Court, Morgan won’t be saying much beyond what he has.
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t positively tipped his hat.
In telling interviewers when he plans to step down, Morgan has added that he “…still has a desire to make a difference in the state of North Carolina.” He’s already spent 34 years serving the state in a variety of judicial capacities, with serving as a state Supreme Court justice the highest rung on that ladder, so that leaves politics.
With the 2024 elections literally just around the corner, there are a number of high profile state offices Mike Morgan could run for and win.
He could serve in the NC General Assembly, as other retired judges have, either as a state senator or representative. Morgan certainly has the experience and discipline to help make laws after a career of judging laws.
Neither office would be a step down for the accomplished lifelong Democrat.
But it’s apparent, at the age of 67, that Morgan wants more. An office that would put the cherry on the top of his family’s impressive history of political accomplishments in New Bern. His father was elected mayor there three times, and his mother was elected to the county school board.
Morgan has the intellect to lead, so the question becomes does he have the stomach for the back-and-forth and give-and-take of today’s sometimes vicious politics? If he feels that he does, and is willing to subject himself to the kind of unfortunate culture war slings and arrows that anticipated Republican gubernatorial standard-bearer Mark Robinson would throw at him, then there is only one office that Mike Morgan is preparing himself for - governor of the state of North Carolina.
Why governor? Why not lieutenant governor?
Given the low-level behavior Robinson has exhibited while holding that office, calling people “filth” and publicly demeaning even his own community, why come behind that?
And what about state attorney general? Certainly, with his wealth of legal experience, Mike Morgan would be beyond qualified to be the state’s top law enforcement officer.
True, but there is a higher brass ring to reach for if you’re going to run for a statewide office anyway.
Morgan has the experience, depth and professional polish necessary to be North Carolina’s next governor. The only thing he’s short on is the in-the-trenches political experience necessary given that he has not served in the General Assembly, but that can be overcome.
So the only question left beyond does Mike Morgan want it, is will he have the money to go get it? He’ll need significant bundles of campaign cash on two fronts to make it happen.
First, Morgan would have to get past fellow Democrat Josh Stein, which would be tough to do because Stein has strong backing within the party, has paid his dues, and is highly touted by the pro choice movement.
In recent elections across the country, Democrats have been winning where Republicans have tightened the screws on pro choice restrictions. Stein can easily ride that wave.
But strangely enough, beyond that, there’s little pronounced excitement about a Stein candidacy, except that he could beat Robinson, who has vowed to make all abortions illegal in the state if elected.
Morgan, if he can get past Stein in next March’s Democratic primary, could create that needed excitement not just with female pro choice voters, but rural and urban black voters, and suburban voters who value accomplishment and education.
In running against Mark Robinson, money for a Morgan for Governor campaign would flow like water from all corners, even beyond North Carolina, for such a high profile race. That would not be a problem.
So the only thing left to answer is, after Mike Morgan officially steps down next week, considers all of his political options, and what it will take to make the most obvious one a reality, will he announce at some point thereafter, that he is, in fact, running for governor?
Circle December 15th on your calendar. That is the deadline for all candidates for office in 2024 to file.Yes, Morgan is expected to make it known long beforehand, but that is the drop dead date with which we can be sure.
NOW THAT SCHOOLS ARE
BACK IN SESSION, WILL THERE
BE MORE PROTESTS AGAINST
RACIAL HISTORY AND BOOKS?
By Cash Michaels
With public schools across the state resuming classes this week, does that signal more parent protests against racial history being taught in the classroom, or African American literature being made available to students in libraries?
The New Hanover County Board of Education has scheduled a 9 a.m. hearing for Friday, Sept. 1st on the book, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” written by children’s author Jason Reynolds. This is a children’s version of “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi.
A high school student’s parent objected to the book being part of the A.P. Language and Composition course, and wants it removed from both the curriculum and school libraries in the NHC school system. The New Hanover County School Board must decide whether “Stamped” is appropriate, and whether it should be restricted, or removed altogether.
Legally, the board cannot remove or restrict the book for purely political reasons.
The outcome of the “Stamped” case could signal other challenges to racial history books and teaching across the state. Currently, the only NC county whose board of education has banned the teaching of racial history, otherwise called “critical race theory, (CRT)” is Johnston County in October of 2021.
And that was by threat from its board of commissioners. But that political threat was nowhere near as concerning as what the black superintendent of Guilford County schools faced in June 2021.
The Guilford County School Board had to increase security to protect Supt. Sharon Contreras after it reportedly received “a slew of hate-filled emails, voicemails and other social media posts,” reported WFMY News 2.
The hateful communications were believed to have been coordinated from around the country, not just from local citizens.
The basis for the outrage - alleged critical race theory. Protestors accused Dr. Contreras of shutting down pubic access to school board meetings under the guise of COVID-19 restrictions, so that angry parents could not be heard.
Contreras and school board members vigorously denied the charges.
On the state level, Republicans have slowed their anti-CRT cause.
In the NC General Assembly, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a ratified bill outlawing the teaching of racial history in 2021 when state lawmakers did not have the numbers to override.
Now, in 2023, according to Sam Chan, Gov. Cooper’s press secretary, while the North Carolina House has passed another anti-racial history bill (HB 187), the measure has stalled in Senate committee, where it’s been since March.
“…these bills present a false, calculated and conspiracy-laden narrative used only or political purposes that harms our children’s education and weakens our schools,” Chan stated by email.
Still, with summer over and schools reopened, in addition to the political season about to kick back into full “after-Labor Day” gear, observers say expect to see more parent challenges to racial history lessons and literature, and more protests at school board meetings
demanding that any semblance of racial history be removed from school curriculums and libraries.