Sunday, August 17, 2014

Another Stinkbomb in the NC Budget: GOP Makes It Harder To Challenge Their Bad Laws

Republican lawmakers in Raleigh don't like it when judges rule that their laws are unconstitutional.

So they've been in a perpetual snit because of developments like these:

1. The notorious Right-to-Life-sponsored "Choose Life" vanity license plates, passed by the Republicans in 2011, never made it to the street because U.S. District Court Judge James Fox in November 2011 temporarily blocked the law, and then ruled in December 2012 that the plates were unconstitutional "viewpoint discrimination," a judgment subsequently upheld unanimously by a 4th Circuit Court ruling.

2. In January 2014, a judge for the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that the Republican law requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound procedure is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of physicians and patients. The lawsuit was brought by several North Carolina physicians and health care providers on behalf of themselves and their patients as a challenge to the constitutionality of a state law passed by Republicans in 2011.

Read more here:
3. In February of this year, Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood temporarily halted a program that provides vouchers to pay for private school tuition.

4. In April, Special Superior Court Judge Richard Doughton issued a preliminary injunction against the Republican move to eliminate teacher tenure.

5. May 16, Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood ruled that the law eliminating teacher tenure is unconstitutional. Hobgood said that the law passed by Republican lawmakers in 2013 violates constitutional rights that protect contracts and prevents governments from taking a person’s property.

Senate leader Phil Berger had something of a conniption about Hobgood’s tenure ruling, calling it “a classic case of judicial activism,” which is the line they always fall back on when justice goes against them. 

Berger and his Buds set about writing a law to make it more difficult to challenge the constitutionality of acts passed by the General Assembly. They couldn't really do anything about Federal courts, but they sure as hell did just mandate a wholly new and novel procedure for state courts (it's never been done in any other state before, according to the News&Observer). They slipped their "innovation" into the big budget bill signed by Governor Squishy last week.

What Did They Do?
Under McCrory's signature, if you now want to challenge the constitutionality of a General Assembly law, you have to sue in Wake County, and then the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will appoint a three-judge panel to hear the case, slowing the process and making summary judgments less likely. Also written into the new law is a provision that any law being challenged can still go ahead into effect if the three-judge panel rules against it and while their ruling is on appeal. It can take years for appeals to advance, so a bad, bad law passed by that bunch of bad, bad people in Raleigh really can't be stopped until the challenge reaches the state's Supreme Court. Hand-picked judges. Delays in receiving injunctive relief. Yeah, we trust that kind of chair-stacking!

The Republican senator assigned to manage this monster provision onto that piece of paper that Gov. McCrory signed, Buck Newton, hilariously said, "We think it will create efficiencies and is a good, common-sense way to streamline the process." By which we take it he actually meant precisely the opposite of what he said.

One of the people who has been most vigorously pushing this deformation of justice is one Frances DeLuca, president of Art Pope's Civitas Institute. Even more hilarious than Sen. Buck Newton's comment, DeLuca said, “You’d have to think hard to remember a time when we had this number of laws declared unconstitutional in this quick a time. Maybe some were deserved...."

DeLuca seems to think that the quickness of the rulings against the laws is the problem and not the laws themselves. (Well ... maybe some deserved to be ruled unconstitutional. Ha!)

DeLuca, incidentally, was thoughtfully appointed by the Republicans in the General Assembly to the state's Ethics Commission, and he delivered an opinion on Friday about the governor's apparent ethics problem regarding the non-reporting (and subsequent dumping) of a large amount of Duke Energy stock. DeLuca is a little bit DeLooney. But he's also a major string-puller for the brand of extremism we're all saddled with.)


Anonymous said...

The NCGOP is doing everything in their power to ruin democracy. "Small government" platform seems to require gigantic governmental overreach to achieve.

There is one answer - vote out NCGOP officials ASAP.

Anonymous said...

Right now you have a fair Chief Justice, Sara Parker, but come December it's almost certain to be Mark Martin, a Republican. Then, look out. Every Republican in NC seems to put party in front of everything. The environment, the food supply, voting, you name it. A little thing like the NC Constitution is surely not going to stop the new Chief Justice from appointing partisans and cronies.

Anonymous said...

Under this new legal regime, no longer can liberal judges unilaterally and summarily declare acts by a democratically elected legislature unconstitutional. The special three judge panel and the immediate appeal to the Supreme Court will help ensure that conservative reforms enacted by the General Assembly will have a fair and impartial judicial hearing.

The requirement to file in Wake County will prevent left wing groups from judge shopping to file lawsuits in jurisdictions presided over by liberal judges.

This new legal protocol represents another major conservative reform. Kudos to the Governor and the General Assembly.

Henery said...

Don't like the justice system? Change it to your advantage!