- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Sept. 21

The Fayetteville Observer on judicial activism:

We hear a lot about judicial activism these days, but we don’t often see it. In most cases, judges on the appellate level hear arguments, interpret the law and issue a ruling. They do their job, deciding how the Constitution and law apply to situations our Founders couldn’t possibly foresee.

Activism complaints come from politicians and politically active people, for the most part. If a court decision is perceived as liberal-leaning, conservatives are offended. If the decision appears to lean right, the left is incensed.

Judges seldom drop hints. They follow a tight code that generally prevents them from taking a stand on the issues of the day, because those issues are likely to show up in their courtroom someday, especially at appellate levels. They only way we have to know what to expect from a judge is to read that jurist’s previous decisions and try to see a path. That was easy with a flamboyant judge like the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, whose decisions were reliably conservative, and with his best friend on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose decisions consistently lean the other way.

But most justices keep their cards closer to their vests, especially in places like our state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Deciding how to vote for appellate justices in North Carolina can be challenging.

But last week, we saw a rare deviation from that norm, a surprising revelation by a North Carolina Supreme Court judge who attended a Fayetteville rally supporting controversial House Bill 2, nicknamed the “bathroom bill.”

Justice Paul Newby was a guest speaker at the rally - “Heart & Soul: A Night of Prayer and Worship.” What he had to say may haunt him in future cases before his court. While the 61-year-old justice, who is in his second term, didn’t specifically endorse HB2, he alluded to it, recounting meetings with pastors from California and Maine who said they are praying for North Carolina to uphold the law. He added: “Let me tell you as a judge, our religious liberties are hanging by a thread.”

The state Code of Judicial Conduct says judges “should abstain from public comment about the merits of a pending proceeding in any state or federal court dealing with a case or controversy arising in North Carolina.” HB2 is subject of several cases and Newby’s comments came as a three-judge panel of the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals was about to release a split decision upholding Rowan County commissioners’ right to open their meetings with a Christian prayer.

Judge Newby just tipped his hand forevermore. There may be some recusal requests and other problems in his future.




Sept. 21

The Greensboro News & Record on events leaving North Carolina because of House Bill 2:

Greensboro didn’t lose a Bruce Springsteen concert and NCAA and ACC athletic events because Charlotte passed an anti-discrimination ordinance.

Greensboro would not have gotten them back if Charlotte had rescinded its ordinance.

So let’s get the facts right: The trouble began March 23, when the state legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory enacted House Bill 2. The law nullified Charlotte’s local measure but also had a detrimental statewide impact. And that can only be fixed if HB 2 is repealed.

Over the weekend, the state’s Republican leaders offered sort of a deal. As House Speaker Tim Moore expressed it, if the Democratic City Council in Charlotte would “fully and unconditionally” repeal the ordinance, “then I believe we have something to discuss.”

Other language was indefinite as well. The governor spoke of finding a “compromise.” Rep. Jon Hardister of Greensboro said he was open to repealing or revising HB 2. There was never a promise that, in exchange for Charlotte’s unconditional action, the legislature would actually do anything.

The Charlotte council did not take up the matter at its meeting Monday. As Mayor Jennifer Roberts pointed out, the legislature can repeal HB 2 anytime it wants. It doesn’t need to wait for Charlotte - except for political reasons.

The governor is locked in a tight re-election race. A few Republican legislators are in competitive districts and might be worried. Their main concern is to deflect the blame for HB 2 away from themselves. They continually accuse Charlotte of starting the conflict and preventing a correction.

A correction surely is needed, because the economic harm increased dramatically with last week’s announcements by the NCAA and ACC.

Like the NBA before them, as well as many businesses and entertainers, the NCAA and ACC didn’t fault Charlotte. They cited HB 2 and its discriminatory effects as the reasons they would withdraw championship events from the state.

McCrory still won’t admit the problem or take responsibility for it. Late Monday, he blamed Charlotte officials, “D.C. special interest political pressures” and even his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper, for derailing “a very reasonable solution and compromise for North Carolina.”

What’s to compromise? What parts of HB 2 does the governor think still should be imposed on Greensboro and the rest of North Carolina? The Charlotte ordinance would have had no effect here. There was no need for a law with statewide impact. There were no problems of bathroom safety or privacy that existing state laws weren’t adequately addressing already.

We can’t say what the Charlotte council should have done. It’s obvious, however, what the legislature and governor should do: Revoke their law. It has been a disaster for Greensboro and North Carolina.




Sept. 20

The News & Observer of Raleigh on recent archaeological finds by ECU and NC State professors:

There in a 4th century garbage dump in the ancient city of Petra in Jordan two statues waited to be found. Undetected for centuries, despite a number of archaeological expeditions, the statues, and heads and arms that were once part of them, were of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess. They will be restored.

The significance to North Carolina is that professors from N.C. State University and East Carolina University were leading the team of archaeologists that made the find. The schools may not be known primarily for this type of work, but that’s only because both have specialties in other fields of academic endeavor. But clearly, their professors and researchers and students are of broad and intense interests in all matters of academic curiosity.

And archaeological efforts such as this, when they deliver remarkable discoveries, are always exciting as science and as history. In this case, ancient history.

The statues are made of marble from Greece or Italy, taken to Petra perhaps 2,000 years ago. And here is where history, and science, and romance and even sociology meet. There’s an ongoing project in this part of the city, focused on tombs and homes in an area believed to be the residences of “commoners.” The statues are uncommon, of course, and now begins research as to how they got where they were. Once a restoration is complete, the statues will remain, as they should, in Jordan. For archaeologists, the pursuit of such treasures and the discovery are the most important things, not possession.



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