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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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COVID-19 Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

COVID-19 crisis spawns another dangerous epidemic in NC: A spike in domestic violence

It was nearly 4 a.m. and Jennifer had been pretending to sleep for two hours. She tried to ignore the sound of her own heartbeat, which pounded faster and harder than seemed possible, so she could hear her husband next to her on the bed. Was he sleeping? Was he sound asleep? When she was sure he was, she quietly slipped out of the bedroom and down the hall to retrieve the garbage bag she had hidden behind the washing machine that afternoon.

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Environment News Top Story

Waiting to exhale: Controversial wood pellet plant would burden Lumberton with more pollution

Wood pellet manufacturer would bring a handful of jobs and lots of new pollution to Robeson County The picnic tables at Alamac Community Park are ideal for watching log trucks yaw into the entrance of an old textile factory in Lumberton. The swings, slide and basketball court command a view of the grim and monolithic building, flanked by a dilapidated guard shack and in back, a smoke stack that pokes a hole in the sky.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

PW special report: Voices from the pandemic

Jessica Richardson is doubling up on the protective face masks these days. She has three children at home to protect, ages 1, 9 and 13. A LabCorp phlebotomist, she works at a doctor’s office in Charlotte, drawing blood from patients. “I double mask,” Richardson said. “I try to stay as positive as possible. I take my daily vitamin and extra Vitamin C.

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News Top Story

With first quarter fundraising surge, Cunningham outraises Tillis for the first time

U.S. House incumbents, vacant seat favorites also pile up big fundraising advantages WASHINGTON — Democrats are plowing cash into North Carolina congressional races in the hopes of sending a much bluer delegation to the U.S. Capitol next year.  Democratic donors — including Hollywood producers and influential politicians — helped U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham to outraise North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis in the first quarter of this year. The race promises to be among the most closely watched and expensive political contests of 2020 as Democrats hope ousting Tillis will help them flip control of the upper chamber of Congress.

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Higher Ed News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Fetzer courts controversy again with new effort to shape ECU Board of Trustees

Tom Fetzer had a problem — again. It involved East Carolina University — again. Fetzer, a member of the UNC Board of Governors, inserted himself into yet another hiring decision about the school. This time it was the question of Van Isley’s appointment to the ECU Board of Trustees.

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COVID-19 Education Top Story

Newly elected education leaders pledge to resist privatization, say pandemic could change future of public schools

Tamika Walker Kelly began to hear talk about the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) being taken over by "radicals" almost immediately after winning election to become president of the state’s largest teacher advocacy group.  It’s a description with which the Cumberland County elementary school music teacher takes issue.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Duke health experts call for patience, testing, improved federal coordination in pandemic battle

Sudden reopening would jeopardize progress made thus far This is Day 50. It feels like Day 500. A new coronavirus, which technically isn’t even alive, has outwitted us. The COVID-19 pandemic has paralyzed the state and the nation, vanquished our economy and killed 40,000 people in the U.S. — including 235 in North Carolina — and another 131,000 worldwide, all of whom were loved by someone.

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Education Top Story

PW special report – “It’s been more than long enough”: The unfulfilled promise of the Leandro ruling in Halifax County

A generation later, an original plaintiff in the landmark lawsuit hopes state leaders will finally do their constitutional duty One evening in 1994, the Pender family — Schnika, then 15, and her parents, Clarence and Isabelle, sat down to dinner, when they usually talked about school and discussed events of the day. But this conversation was unlike any other.  The conversation took place over dinner, which was when the Penders usually talked about school and discussed events of the day. 

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COVID-19 News Top Story

COVID-19 pushes Postal Service’s finances to the brink

Everything from pharmaceutical deliveries to mail-in ballots could depend on whether Congress can shore up the agency’s finances. WASHINGTON — Millions of Americans are relying on the U.S. Postal Service for key supplies while they isolate themselves to slow the spread of COVID-19. But the Postal Service itself faces uncertain times ahead, as the economic fallout of the pandemic and hostility from the Trump administration threaten to hobble it.

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COVID-19 Higher Ed Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Pandemic bringing changes to higher education that could be long-lasting

Some say “new normal” at UNC could feature more faculty input, fewer applicants, depleted budgets and an expanded commitment to online instruction This week Eric Muller dialed in to a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty leadership video conference to wrestle ...
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Environment News Top Story

Your discarded carpet is poisoning the Earth with PFAS

New research shows very high levels of PFAS in construction and demolition landfills, jeopardizing groundwater When a building succumbs, by age or wind or water or fire, its innards have to go somewhere. Carpet, bricks, drywall, windows, shingles and siding, are hauled to a special type of landfill, known as construction and demolition, or C&D. New research published in the journal Waste Management this week reported that very high levels of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) have been found seeping from several C&D landfills in Florida, which has environmental and public health implications for North Carolina.

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COVID-19 News Top Story

Pro Publica report: Senator Richard Burr sold D.C. townhouse to donor at a rich price

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, has come under fire in recent weeks for unloading stock holdings right before the market crashed on fears of coronavirus and for a timely sale of shares in an obscure Dutch fertilizer company. Now the North Carolina Republican’s 2017 sale of his Washington, D.C., home to a group led by a donor and powerful lobbyist who had business before Burr’s committee is raising additional ethical questions. Burr sold the small townhouse, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, for what, by some estimates, was an above market price — $900,000 — to a team led by lobbyist John Green.

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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 Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

COVID-19 reignites dark memories for those who survived the AIDS epidemic

Twice a week, Brad Batch goes on a walk with some friends in Raleigh. The Wednesday and Sunday outings are about more than just getting some fresh air. They’re an important and communal part of his week — a chance to get out of the house, have a laugh, catch up with people over coffee. But last month Batch, who is 67, told the group he wasn’t going anymore — at least until the COVID-19 pandemic was over.

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