Monday, October 31, 2022

If Your Hair Isn't on Fire About Moore v. Harper, You Haven't Been Paying Attention


Last Friday, some good folks from Common Cause were in Boone to sound the alarm about Moore v. Harper, the election law case arising out of North Carolina gerrymandering that will be heard at the Supreme Court very soon. I wrote about this case back in July, and already my hair was smoldering. It's fully on fire now.

They only need 5 of these votes

After the North Carolina Supreme Court threw out the first set of Congressional district maps, the Republican leaders of the NC General Assembly -- I call them BergerMoore for short -- appealed to the US Supremes and used a novel theory, arguing an extremist version of state's rights, "the independent state legislature doctrine," which maintains that no state court can interfere in a state legislature's desire to seize partisan power and hold it by gerrymandering and other means (like creating barriers to vote, purges of voters, cuts to popular early voting options, fewer protections against voter intimidation).

At the time the US Supremes declined to override the NC Supremes, justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch dissented and said they thought the independent state legislature doctrine had merit and would welcome a test case going forward. That's the case they'll hear argued on December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day!), and there's every chance in this twisted conservatives-uber-alles world that Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch will get the votes of Kavanaugh and Barrett, and BergerMoore will be unleashed to do their worst.

The Dobbs decision officially turned pregnant women into second-class citizens and was perhaps just the opening act of a complete scenery-sweeping arrival of the new authoritarianism that was always Trump's wet dream.

The independent state legislature "doctrine" originates (favorite word among extremist judges) from the U.S. Constitution’s election clause, which says that the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.” That last clause has previously been interpreted to mean "by the legislative process," which would include voter petition initiatives to establish independent redistricting commissions, for example, or challenges via law suits in state courts. The independent state legislature doctrine could also give lawmakers control over issues such as voter qualification, voting by mail, and other election procedures, effectively taking voting procedures out of the hands of the State Board of Elections and giving them to BergerMoore.

Heed the Call for Citizen Action

Many of the most conservative legal minds in the nation have come out strongly against the independent state legislature doctrine, including J. Michael Luttig, who was shortlisted for a Supreme Court seat by the George W. Bush White House and who mentored many of the conservative legal elite as his law clerks, including Senator Ted Cruz. The Conference of Chief Justices, representing all 50 state supreme court justices from both parties, filed a brief squarely rejecting the notion that state courts and state constitutions cannot check state legislatures when they regulate federal elections.

Common Cause, along with partners Southern Coalition for Social Justice and DemocracyNC, will be leading the effort to alert voters to this threat to fair and free elections and will be calling for street demonstrations in both Washington and in Raleigh as December 7th approaches. Heed their call.

Find out how to help:

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Davidson Co. Schools Decide Not to Throw Away Food Students Can't Pay For, But Will They Feed Them?


On Friday, news came out that the Director of School Nutrition for Davidson County had sent an email to all school lunchroom managers that kids would no longer be allowed to "charge" the cost of their meals to their lunchroom accounts. They either had to return to the cash register and pay up, or the food would be discarded.

The backlash and bad PR was instant and fierce.

Less than 24 hours later, that same director of nutrition reversed the policy

Admittedly, discarding food as a means of addressing this complex issue was not the correct
approach, and we regret that it was not considered more carefully before being communicated
to child nutrition staff. It is not the expectation that meals will be thrown away; prior to the
COVID-19 pandemic universally free benefits, our high schools were able to successfully
implement this same policy. We are committed to reviewing the school nutrition no-charge
policy adopted in 2011, reinstating some of the strategies that enabled us to manage this
successfully before, and consider other recommended best practices for balancing a no-charge
policy expectation by USDA with the goal of ensuring all children have the opportunity for
access to a healthy meal during the school day.

The question still hanging out there for me: No throwing food away, but does every kid get a meal regardless of their ability to pay? 

This national atmosphere of casual cruelty is all Donald Trump's fault.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Update: The Q Outbreak in Haywood County


Previously (the background).

According to the Smoky Mountain News:

A Haywood County woman arrested by the FBI on Sept. 7 for making threats to public officials is back in custody after she failed to show up for her arraignment last week on 59 counts of interstate threats and conspiracy to kidnap.

On Sept. 12, Darris Moody was released on bond by Judge Carleton Metcalf at the conclusion of her detention hearing, during which FBI special agent Bill Gang testified that Moody told him she did not recognize the legitimacy of the United States government or legal system.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Don Gast had argued for Moody’s continuing detention at that time, telling Metcalf that there was no piece of paper anyone could put in front of Moody that would compel her to appear as directed to a court she repeatedly claimed she didn’t recognize. Moody’s attorney, Sean Devereux, had argued for her release, saying he’d made clear to Moody that she needed to follow the rules.

Metcalf said at the time that his decision could have gone either way but considering Moody’s lack of criminal history, Metcalf opted to release Moody to home confinement, albeit with a number of conditions to encourage her participation in the forthcoming proceedings.

When Moody’s 10 a.m. hearing began on Oct. 14, she was nowhere to be found. Metcalf moved onto another matter, giving Moody time to show up, but shortly before 11 a.m. it became clear she wouldn’t.

In addressing Metcalf, Devereux acknowledged the court’s previous concerns about Moody being an active participant in her own defense and told Metcalf that he’d “bent over backwards” to ensure Moody understood that.


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Jackson (D) v. Stading (R) for the NC Court of Appeals


PamsPicks evaluates the final statewide judge race.

NC Court of Appeals Judge, Seat 11

NOTE: You may vote for one. Candidates are presented below in the order they appear on your ballot.

Reason for my Endorsement: Decent man and fair Judge with a reliable progressive history v. Phil Berger’s Boy.

Darren Jackson, Democrat

Jackson is running for a full 8-year term on the court after being appointed to this vacant seat in December of 2020. He’s a native of eastern Wake County. He rose to prominence in the NC House, where he was first elected to a Wake County seat in 2008 and was elevated to House Minority Leader in 2016. He was serving as Minority Leader when Gov. Cooper appointed him to the court.

Jackson earned his B.A. in political science from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1993 and got his law degree from Duke University and passed the bar in 1996. Jackson practiced law in Zebulon with Gay & Stroud. When Donna Stroud left to serve on the bench in 2004, the firm became Gay & Jackson. His small-town general practice focused on residential real estate and civil litigation.

After the disappointing performance of NC House Democratic candidates in the 2020 elections, Jackson announced that he would not be seeking to return to his minority leadership post“I do take responsibility, of course, for us not picking up seats,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of leaders in our caucus, and it’s time to give somebody else a chance.”

Jackson’s endorsements include, among others, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the NC AFL-CIO, the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, North Carolina Advocates for JusticeThe People’s Alliance, and the Sierra Club.

Michael J. Stading, Republican

Stading is a former Mecklenburg County prosecutor and currently a district court judge. He served as a JAG officer for the Air Force and is still in the Air Force Reserve. He earned his degree from Campbell University Law School.

Stading has raised record amounts of money for a judgeship candidate, and he’s not been cautious about campaigning with Republican Senate candidate Ted Budd. Indeed, he’s been endorsed by some of the most conservative voices in the NCGOP, including jerk Congressman Dan Bishop and loose cannon Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

Stading says he’s “proud to be running for the Court of Appeals alongside #TheRightJudges,” and blows a consistent dog whistle of “uphold the Constitution, defend law & order, and protect American values.”

Even the ultra-conservative Daily Haymaker claimed (without explanation) that Stading is “a puppet for the Raleigh special interests.”What special interests was left unsaid.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Tyson (R) v. Adams (D), for the NC Court of Appeals


From PamsPicks, her next-to-last write-up of the all important, statewide Court of Appeals races. Republicans always have 10 of the 15 seats on this Court. Tyson is an incumbent.

NC Court of Appeals Judge, Seat 10

NOTE: You may vote for one. Candidates are presented below in the order they appear on your ballot.

Reason for my Endorsement: No Brainer: clearly progressive judicial candidate vs. volcanic conservative judicial candidate who is accused of trying to run over Black Lives Matter protesters.

John M. Tyson, Republican

Tyson was first elected to a seat on the Court of Appeals in 2000, was not reelected in 2008 but came back to win again in 2014 and is now running for reelection. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UNC-Wilmington in 1974 and his law degree from Campbell in 1979.

Tyson seems to be something of a volcanic conservative.

On May 7th, 2021, during a Black Lives Matter protest around the Market House in downtown Fayetteville, Tyson was alleged to have circled protestors and then on the second pass attempted to hit one of them with his SUV. The vehicle ended up on the sidewalk. The woman who appeared to be targeted filed charges against Tyson with the Fayetteville police, and a detective was assigned to investigate. Allegedly, the whole incident was captured on city videotape. Subsequently, Tyson was charged with misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon. The charge was eventually dropped for lack of evidence.

Tyson is endorsed by, among other conservatives, the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police, the NC Homebuilders PAC, the NC Right to Life PAC, the NC Values Coalition, U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry, and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Gale Murray Adams, Democrat

Adams was brought up in the tobacco fields of Warren County by a single mother of four. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill (English and Economics) and NC Central University School of Law. She served as a JAG officer for the US Navy and as both a prosecutor and a Federal public defender in eastern North Carolina. She was elected in 2012 as a Superior Court judge in Cumberland County and has continued to serve on that bench until the present.

Past experiences include representing defendants who were charged with various criminal and military offenses; providing legal advice to service members, and prosecuting violent and property crimes, drug offenses, and child abuse.

Judge Adams spoke out against a Republican scheme to redistrict judicial districts to give Republicans an advantage in elections. Republican Rep. Justin Burr, a bail bondsman from Stanly County who was apparently reacting to the continued trouble the Republican majority was experiencing in court over unconstitutional laws, made a proposal to disband the Courts Commission and turn its advisory duties over to a legislative committee. “What is the rush?” Judge Gale Adams said at the time, relaying a message from the president of the North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges. “Why can’t the legislators simply take time to more fully and thoroughly study the issue about judicial redistricting? This is a critical issue that affects a large number of people, the citizens of our state, and so what is the rush? Why can’t we have a nonpartisan, impartial commission and study the impact that it has?”

Adams’ endorsements include the NC AFL-CIO, the National Association of Social Workers, and the Sierra Club.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Salmon (D) v. Stroud (R), for the NC Court of Appeals


PamsPicks didn't endorse the Democrat in this Court of Appeals race. I may vote for him anyway on the theory that even a conservative Democrat is better than a conservative Republican. Make up your own mind.

NC Court of Appeals Judge, Seat 9

NOTE: You may vote for one. Candidates are presented below in the order they appear on your ballot.

Reason for my Non-Endorsement: I don’t endorse Democratic candidates who cast votes in favor of abortion restrictions and who seek to dictate who uses which bathroom. And I don’t endorse Republicans who receive endorsements from anti-abortion groups and cite Antonin Scalia as their judicial hero.

Brad A. Salmon, Democrat

Salmon is a founding partner at the Salmon Law Firm where he focused on representing clients in various criminal, civil and administrative matters.” Previously, he served as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives for District 51 — elected in 2014. He was defeated for reelection in 2016.

Salmon earned his Bachelor of Arts from North Carolina State University and his Juris Doctor from Campbell Law School. In November 2021, Governor Roy Cooper appointed Salmon to serve as District Court Judge in Judicial District 11, which serves Johnston, Harnett, and Lee counties.

Salmon is a mixed bag. While he has been rated over the years with generally low or moderate scores by very conservative groups, he receives mostly decent scores by outfits like the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters. While he supports Medicaid expansion in NC, he wasn’t sure how he felt about raising the state’s minimum wage. His environmental record is pretty good, but he voted in favor of HB2, a bill that required individuals to use bathrooms according to their biological sex and was the only Democrat to vote in favor of placing stricter regulations on abortion rights in 2015.

I contacted Salmon via Facebook messenger on October 13th to ask him the reasons for his votes on abortion rights and the Bathroom bill. While my message was read, I have yet to receive a response.

Donna Stroud, Republican

First elected to the Appeals Court in 2006, Stroud is running for her 3rd 8-year term. She was born in Kinston, North Carolina, and received her bachelor’s degree in government summa cum laude from Campbell University at Buies Creek in 1985. She received her J.D. magna cum laude from Campbell University School of Law in 1988. She also earned an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law in 2014.

In the candidate questionnaire for Ballotpedia, and among other answers, she said her favorite book was the Bible (no, really): “Of course, it’s not really one book; it is a collection of books, but it is the foundation of our legal system and it provides the best answers and guidance for every issue we confront in life.”

And she listed Antonin Scalia as her judicial hero (no, really)“I try to follow his example in his approach to cases as an originalist and textualist. His opinions are exceptionally well-written and clear.”

But the extreme conservative website The Daily Haymaker called her “Another RINO in a black robe,” so go figure. She’s endorsed by the NC Values Coalition (an anti-abortion advocacy group)Conservative Coalition NC, even the Sierra Club, and by Former Chief Judge Linda McGee, among a host of other former justices of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and judges of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Flood (R) vs. Thompson (D), for the NC Court of Appeals


Second only to the Supreme Court in North Carolina's judicial system, the Court of Appeals currently has a 10-5 Republican majority, and it could get worse. Excerpted from

NC Court of Appeals Judge, Seat 8

NOTE: You may vote for one. Candidates are presented below in the order they appear on your ballot.

Reason for my Endorsement: Candidate with no direct judicial experience who is endorsed by #rightjudgesNC v. Candidate with a proven progressive record and 25 years of judicial experience.

Julee Tate Flood, Republican

Flood earned both B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Florida, an M.P.A. from the University of Maine, a J.D. from the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, and a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee, in which her specialization area was the law and policy of higher education. She has published scholarly articles and a book on managing risks in faculty hiring.

Flood is in-house counsel and advisor for a multi-state veterinary services business she co-founded with her husband. She also serves as an attorney at the Court of Appeals, currently working for Judge Jeffery K. Carpenter, who describes himself as a constitutional conservative and a textualist.

Flood has no direct judicial experience. Her court experience includes analyzing and drafting judicial opinions for nine appellate judges and justices in federal and state courts. She previously taught at Elon Law School in a Fellowship and then as Visiting Professor of Law and Director of the Leadership Program. She has also been an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee’s College of Law and College of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, and at Duke University’s Paralegal Program.

She is endorsed by NC Conservative Judges and #rightjudgesNC, which maintains, “the NC Supreme Court blatantly violated the Constitution when it threw out NC Congressional Maps. This is why we need Conservative Judges.”

Carolyn Jennings Thompson, Democrat

Thompson is a graduate of Hampton University (B.A.) and of NC Central University School of Law. She is also an ordained minister in the Cornerstone Christian Community Church in Oxford, NC. With over 25 years of combined legal and judicial experience, Thompson has served as both a district court and superior court judge.

As a district court judge, Thompson successfully advocated for changing court dockets so that domestic violence cases could be heard separately from the general civil court (giving families more time to handle their issues without unnecessary delays). Thompson is a state-certified mediator for superior court cases and cases involving complex family financial disputes. She also serves as a volunteer Teen Court Judge and youth mentor to help first-time youth offenders accept responsibility for their conduct and learn about the court system.

“I am a member of numerous community-focused organizations, including but not limited to: Families Living Violence Free, Inc., Call to Peace Ministries, Inc., Rotary Club of Oxford, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In 2016, I authored and published Abigails Veil, educating the faith-based community about domestic violence.”

Thompson’s endorsements include, among others, Governor Roy Cooper, Congresswoman Eva M. Clayton, and Congresswoman Deborah Ross.