Thursday News: Not-so-special session

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GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES TODAY, BUT NO VETO OVERRIDE VOTES SCHEDULED: North Carolina lawmakers are returning to Raleigh for a "veto override" session, but it doesn't sound like they're going to give Gov. Roy Cooper's objections much attention now. The General Assembly is scheduled to convene Thursday, probably only for one day. It's supposed to consider the four vetoes Cooper issued from over 100 bills lawmakers left him when their annual work session ended June 30. A key House lawmaker says so many legislators are expected to be absent that action on the vetoed bills will wait until a session in September. The Republican-controlled legislature could take up some other pieces of legislation Thursday. Many legislators will stay through Friday to attend a redistricting committee whose work is intensifying after new General Assembly maps were ordered by Sept. 1.
http://www.wral.com/veto-session-likely-to-omit-override-votes-until-september/16856874/

The NC GOP's war on the poor continues with more cuts to legal aid

And the yoyo (you're on your own) keeps spinning:

For years, the three leading legal aid groups have received state funds to represent people in civil matters in part through budget earmarks and a small portion of the fees from court filings and criminal cases. Legal aid funds already had been cut by more than half since 2008 to $2.7 million during the last fiscal year. This year the reduction looks deeper and permanent, and the reasons for the cuts remain unclear.

Although the legal aid groups also get funds from other sources, their leaders said in interviews the new state cuts could mean nearly 35 attorneys and staff ultimately will be laid off, resulting in several thousand potential clients unable to get help each year.

Beginning to see a trend here, which may go a long way in answering that "reasons for the cuts" question. With a backdrop of Republican court losses over the last few years, we suddenly see Josh Stein losing dozens of lawyers, the UNC Center for Civil Rights being hamstrung with "no litigation" rules, and now three dozen legal aid lawyers losing their jobs. Not a coincidence, and not just an effort to clear the way for the GOP's business pals. This is pure spite, plain and simple, directed at the legal profession in general. I shouldn't have to do this, but here are some excerpts from the Preamble to the NC Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct:

Liar-in-Chief implicated in Seth Rich conspiracy theory

Methinks he doth protest against fake news too much:

An investigator who worked on the Seth Rich case claims Fox News fabricated quotes implicating the murdered Democratic National Committee staffer in the WikiLeaks scandal and that President Donald Trump pressured Fox to publish the story. The investigator, Rod Wheeler, sued Fox for defamation on Tuesday.

Wheeler, a Fox contributor who looked into Rich’s July 2016 murder for the family, said Fox made up quotes attributed to him saying there was contact between Rich and WikiLeaks, and that someone — possibly Democrats or Hillary Clinton’s campaign — was blocking the murder investigation. Rich was killed in what Washington police believe was a botched robbery. The lawsuit said Trump pushed to get the story out. There was no immediate response from Fox or the White House.

Like any good conspiracy theory, you have to have a compelling motive upon which to build your fiction. In this case, it was fabricating a connection between Seth Rich and Wikileaks. Couldn't go forward without that. And make no mistake, Trump needed that false narrative badly, after telling Hillary Clinton (on national television, no less) that he was going to put her in jail. It's absurdity on top of absurdity with this administration, and we are at risk of arriving at a new norm where the truth has been so eclipsed by fiction we might not recognize the truth on the rare occasion it surfaces. But you know what? We asked for it. We watched as a candidate continuously lied during the campaign, and instead of escorting him off the stage, we put him in the White House. You're upset I'm using the pronoun "we" instead of "they"? Good. Stay upset.

Wednesday News: Reverse-reverse discrimination?

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TRUMP DIRECTS DOJ TO SUE COLLEGES WHO DON'T SELECT ENOUGH WHITE APPLICANTS: The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times. The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/article164888547.html

Tuesday News: Cutting the puppet strings

ELECTIONS BOARD MULLS TOUGHER RULES FOR VOTER CHALLENGES: Republicans and voting-rights advocates went head-to-head over a proposal that would have people make fact-based claims when they allege voters have committed fraud. The State Board of Elections has proposed a stiffer standard for elections protests that would have people describe facts, say whether a lawyer helped them make their claims, and say whether they have any witnesses. The McCrory campaign and his Republican allies used protest forms to “make outrageous claims of voter fraud,” Hall said. As a result, voters were unfairly maligned and targeted on social media. “They used charges of voter fraud for personal gain,” he said. Democracy NC found that lawyers with a Virginia firm helped prepare nearly all the protests.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article164517322.html

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Now the clock is really ticking:

No special elections are called for though, but the 2018 election could be a game-changer.

Defending the UNC Center for Civil Rights

Trying to clip the wings of the legal eagles:

Ahead of a vote this week that she says would effectively close the UNC Law School’s Center of Civil Rights, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt has sent a letter requesting the UNC Board of Governors not adopt a proposed policy change. In a July 28 letter, Folt says the move by the BOG would lead to a closure of the center and harm the school’s reputation. The five page letter is Folt’s strongest statement yet on the fate of the center.

“. . . if the committee moves forward with the new proposed policy, we risk significant damage to the reputation of the University and the Law School, as well as the uncertainty as to whether we can create a new clinic for civil rights with no resources.”

Follow the link and read Carol Folt's letter, and once again hat-tip to Kirk Ross for his diligence. This answered a question that's been in the back of my mind: "Why don't Republicans just cut off the funding for the Center if they don't like it?" It's because there is no state funding, taxpayers aren't spending a dime for this critical service. So the GOP is forced to take other measures, which will not only undermine the important work being done, it goes against the wishes of the charitable donors who have supported the Center. If you want to know the "why" behind this move, look at some of the cases litigated:

Monday News: The Somewhat Chilly War

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PUTIN TO EXPEL HUNDREDS OF US DIPLOMATS FROM RUSSIAN SOIL: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the U.S. diplomatic missions in Moscow and elsewhere in the country will have to reduce their staffs by 755 people, signaling a dramatic escalation in the Russian response to American sanctions over the Kremlin's intervention in the 2016 presidential elections. The United States and Russia have expelled dozens of each other's diplomats before - but Sunday's statement, made by Putin in an interview with the Rossiya-1 television channel, indicated the single largest forced reduction in embassy staff, comparable only to the closing of the American diplomatic presence in the months following the Communist revolution in 1917.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/world/article164450362.html

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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NEW REDISTRICTING EFFORT AIMS TO REPEAT OLD MISTAKES: The iron-fisted leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly quickly snapped the last frayed thread of hope that there might be a sincere effort to develop fair and legal legislative districts. At Wednesday’s joint meeting of the legislature’s redistricting committees, among the first revelations is that taxpayers will be paying the architect of the state’s current illegal redistricting maps to create the new ones. Tom Hofeller isn’t a household name though his handiwork as nation’s top Republican redistricting map-maker, has cost the state millions defending the unconstitutional legislative and congressional districts he concocted. When asked if Democrats in the legislature will have access to Hofeller’s expertise and work – after all we’re all paying for it – House redistricting boss Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, was precise. “The short answer is no.”
http://www.wral.com/editorial-new-redistricting-effort-aims-to-repeat-old-mistakes/16845741/

Guilford County Commission joins war against News & Record

If you don't like the reporting, kill the newspaper:

WHEREAS, in recent action, the North Carolina General Assembly has taken measures to advance communication options among local governments with the creation of HB 205 that sought to modernize the publication of legal advertisements and public notices to allow Guilford County, and any municipality in Guilford County, in lieu of printed publication, the option to post legal advertisements and notices on the county web site; and,

WHEREAS, not only does the option of electronic noticing broaden customer service and foster public participation, it also serves to provide an efficient and cost-effective means of communication all at the click of a button.

I realize many reading this do not subscribe to a daily newspaper, and get their information online instead. As such, you may be tempted to agree with this policy change, or (maybe worse) find yourself indifferent. But this is not about increasing dissemination of legal notices, it's about defunding an already struggling publication, the Greensboro News & Record. The N&R has been a strong, mostly progressive voice in the region, and has called out Republicans countless times for their inhumane and often unconstitutional actions. But aside from that "kill the paper" goal of this bill, the very premise that shifting that information online will increase the number of people who see them is faulty, for several reasons. The most obvious reason is the low traffic to the site, but here's another: In order to host all those legal notices, the government website will likely cache them in pdf files, further burying that information. That's not just my opinion:

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