Law and the Courts

Law and the Courts

Defending Democracy Law and the Courts Top Story

Black North Carolina justice system leaders speak in support of protesters’ calls for change

Powerful Black leaders across North Carolina in charge of administering justice are speaking out to support protesters calling for change in the aftermath of the homicide of George Floyd. Floyd’s story is all too familiar to Black Americans – he was killed on camera as a result of police brutality, and now his name has become another hashtag, another call to white people to recognize their privilege and the systemic racism that enables ongoing violence and injustice.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Bipartisan elections bill wins committee approval, heads to state House floor

North Carolina House lawmakers will consider an elections bill today that would provide temporary funding and set up new election protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, but voting rights advocates say it doesn’t go far enough.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Big changes, challenges on the horizon as North Carolina courts move to reopen

On any given week prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people went in and out of the Wake County courthouse without worrying about the crowds they’d encounter in the building. In courtrooms, defendants, attorneys, victims and public agency workers alike would squeeze into the pews as a judge conducted hearings on dockets that could drone on for hours. No one wore masks; no one compulsively sanitized their hands.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts Top Story

Legislators seek to prevent access to emails, other documents in voter ID lawsuit

North Carolina lawmakers say that they cannot be required to turn over communications and documents related to their most recent passage of a voter ID law because of an absolute legislative privilege. Six voters are challenging the law, enshrined in Senate Bill 824, which the legislature passed in December 2018 after voters approved a constitutional amendment on the subject..

Six voters are challenging the law, enshrined in Senate Bill 824, which the legislature passed in December 2018.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Monday numbers: How much the NC judicial system spends in a year and what it buys

Every year, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts releases an annual report detailing its budget, programs and highlights from the year before. The 2018-19 annual report was released this week. Below are some of the featured numbers:

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COVID-19 Defending Democracy Law and the Courts News Top Story

PW special report: What NC must do to conduct a fair and safe election this fall

North Carolina advocates, election officials and lawmakers answer our questions about holding an election in the era of COVID-19 It’s not easy to forget the photos of masked Wisconsin voters standing in large lines waiting to cast a ballot in the middle of a pandemic. Residents there risked their health and lives to make their voices heard; they chose democracy in the face of uncertainty, and now, the rest of the nation has a chance to learn from them.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts

Uncharted territory: Solo attorneys, small law firms struggle with impacts of COVID-19

Some lawyers are taking side jobs now, but could face a flood of indigent clients when courts reopen  As courts across the state consider reopening, it’s expected that more people with criminal citations or charges will be found indigent after losing their jobs or a significant part of their income during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these people might need representation from public defenders, but they too, are struggling.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

In their own words: North Carolina prisoners share experiences from the inside during COVID-19 pandemic

Many media outlets, including Policy Watch, have reported the Department of Public Safety’s side of the COVID-19 response, but it’s rare audiences get to hear from the people serving time. This compilation is meant to provide a glimpse of life in prison during this historic moment. Policy Watch knows the names of the incarcerated people, but is not publishing them because they fear retribution in prison for talking to media. Some of their stories have been edited and condensed for publication.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

Monday numbers: Incarceration and COVID-19

Last week, several civil rights organizations and incarcerated people filed a lawsuit seeking emergency help from the North Carolina Supreme Court. Conditions for battling the COVID-19 pandemic in prisons and jails are less than ideal, and they’ve asked justices to consider releasing to release as many incarcerated adults and youths as possible in the face of the rapidly spreading virus. Below are several numbers about incarceration and COVID-19 (numbers are current as of Sunday):

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

PW special report, Part Four: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

Disease poised to spread like "wildfire" at overcrowded ICE detention facilities At Stewart Detention Center in southwest Georgia, 350 immigrants began starving themselves last week to protest the conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ana María Reichenbach, who used to live in North Carolina but is now in New York, spoke to Policy Watch last week about her friend who is being detained at Stewart, where immigrants picked up in North Carolina, as well as other states, are housed.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

PW special report, Part Three: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

The challenge of keeping kids and staff safe in juvenile detention facilities The needs of children in detention centers are almost identical to those of adults in jails and prisons, but their age and development can be an added challenge for officials to consider when responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. “They are uniquely ill-equipped to deal with this type of emotional and psychological strain that this virus is causing,” said Dawn Blagrove, Executive Director of Emancipate NC, formerly the Carolina Justice Policy Center.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

PW special report, Part Two: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

Advocates, family members plead with Gov. Cooper to to take action "before it's too late" About seven years ago, a Buncombe County man stole a piece of metal from a dumpster and then sold it at a scrap yard. He needed money, because as a chronic substance user he had relapsed after his wife miscarried their child.  The man was charged with larceny and selling property under false pretenses, but because he had previous drug charges — set aside when he graduated a court-ordered substance use program — prosecutors resurrected those charges as part of his sentencing.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

PW special report: COVID-19 pandemic poses dire threat to NC prisons and jails

Criminal justice advocates and family members of incarcerated individuals have been warning state and county officials for weeks about the potential for COVID-19 to ravage the populations of jails, prisons and other detention facilities. Their pleas, however, have mostly been ignored.  Citing the public health and safety of North Carolinians, Gov. Roy Cooper has closed schools, expanded unemployment benefits and ordered residents to stay at home. His administration, though, has been silent on issues facing some of the most vulnerable individuals in the state: incarcerated people and detention facility staff. 

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts News Top Story

Health pandemic leads to numerous reports of price gouging across NC

Just three days after Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Joannie Valencia paid $42.90 for two bottles of 70% isopropyl alcohol at a mom and pop pharmacy in Charlotte. She was in a panic; she had kids at home and had driven all over the city looking for any kind of disinfectants to keep her family safe, but her search had been futile. She knew the price was high, but she paid it. When in stock, the same 32-ounce bottles of rubbing alcohol cost $1.99 a piece at Target and $2.39 at CVS.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

Special PW update: North Carolina sheriffs are continuing to carry out evictions during pandemic

Should North Carolina sheriffs be evicting people during the COVID-19 pandemic and thereby place the public health at further risk? That's a question that's front and center in the state public policy debate this weekend. Advocates say that people evicted from their homes could end up on the street, doubling or tripling up in crowded homes with family or friends or congregating with crowds at homeless shelters. It doesn’t bode well, they point out, for the larger social distancing directive and other recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect the public from the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

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COVID-19 Law and the Courts Top Story

Left behind: Immigrant communities try to navigate COVID-19 with language barriers, lack of resources

On the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it would limit enforcement action amid COVID-19 concerns, agents threatened to break a man’s truck window in a Cary parking lot to take him into custody. Mariano Rosario-Rios and his daughter locked themselves in their truck Wednesday morning and called Siembra NC’s 24-hour ICE detention hotline for help while agents surrounded them and ordered they get out of the truck. They were in a shopping center parking lot.

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