Friday, August 15, 2014

Citing Recent Supreme Court Ruling, NC Judges Dismiss Combined 13 Moral Monday Cases on Constitutional Grounds


August 15, 2014


Contact: Sarah Bufkin, NC NAACP - or 404.285.3413


DURHAM, NC - Two judges have now dismissed 13 cases against Moral Monday arrestees on the Constitutional grounds that Police Chief Jeff Weaver's order to leave the General Assembly building was not "narrowly tailored," that the Legislative rules were vague and overbroad and that the Moral Monday arrestees' constitutionally protected right to assemble, speak and redress their grievances were violated by these arrests on June 24 and July 15, 2013. These rights were protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Sections 12 and 14 of the North Carolina constitution.


On July 30, her last day on the bench, Judge Joy Hamilton dismissed five cases pending against moral witnesses, citing the recent Supreme Court decision in McCullen v. Coakley. She dismissed all five cases in court and noted that in light of the Supreme Court's ruling, her previous rulings on the narrowly tailored issue may have been wrong.


Two weeks later, on Aug. 12 and 13, Judge Anne Salisbury dismissed eight other cases, but broadened the constitutional grounds which supported those decisions. In addition to the "narrow tailoring" rationale, Judge Salisbury determined that the Legislative rules were unconstitutional because they gave Chief Weaver unfettered discretion to subjectively decide who to arrest and for what they could be arrested.


In addition, she decided that the rules were vague, overbroad and unconstitutionally prohibited the Moral Monday protesters from using signs, singing, praying and chanting as vehicles to speak to their legislators. It was also determined that the activities in which the protesters were engaged did not disrupt any of the legislative activities which were planned for June 24 and July 15, 2013.


Referring to the General Assembly as the "People's House," Judge Salisbury specifically noted that the North Carolina Constitution designates the North Carolina General Assembly as the place for the people "to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances" under Article I, Section 12 of the North Carolina Constitution.


In McCullen v. Coakley, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that Massachusetts could not ban anti-abortion protestors from occupying the sidewalks within 35 feet of clinics and women's health centers. The Court held that the law did not "narrowly tailor" its proscription to leave the sidewalks clear and public, thereby violating the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech.


"The North Carolina NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement welcomes Judge Hamilton's and Judge Salisbury's decisions as just adjudications of charges that were brought against these moral witnesses," said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the NC NAACP. "Like the other 932 people who were arrested in 2013 and the more than 60 who have already been arrested in 2014 at the People's House, these 13 moral witnesses were merely attempting to exercise their constitutional rights to petition their lawmakers for the redress of grievances."


In her written order, Judge Hamilton concluded that "the charge of trespass, as applied to these defendants, therefore constitutes an unconstitutional burden upon their right to peacefully assemble and speak."


Judge Salisbury is drafting her written decisions, and she is expected to file them with the Court next week.




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