Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To commemorate the occasion, National Public Radio’s Fresh Air broadcast this interview with Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Alexander argues that the mass incarceration of African-Americans in the war on drugs strips such persons of the rights thought won in the civil rights movement, among them the right to vote. Disagreement about whether convicted felons’ right to vote should be restored also surfaced in Monday’s Republican presidential debate in South Carolina when Rick Santorum asked Mitt Romney whether felons “who served their time” should be able to vote. Romney said he didn’t “think people who ha[d]committed violent crimes should be allowed to vote again.” CNN followed up with this on-line poll seeking readers’ opinions as to whether convicted felons should be allowed to vote. More than half of the respondents said yes, 13 percent of them indicating that felons should be able to vote while still serving their sentences. CNN prefaced the poll by recounting arguments for and against the disenfranchisement of felons and by acknowledging its disproportionate effect on African American voters. CNN reported that “twenty-three states have eased felon voting restrictions since 1997, but in 2011, Florida and Iowa tightened them.” (Hat Tip: Sentencing Law and Policy). North Carolina has for decades provided for the automatic restoration of a convicted felon’s citizenship rights, including the right to vote, upon the person’s unconditional discharge from prison or from probation. See G.S. 13-1. A felon who is a qualified voter and whose rights have been restored is, like other qualified voters, eligible for elective office in North Carolina (N.C. Const. Art. VI §§ 6, 8) with one exception: The state constitution was amended in 2010 to provide that no person convicted of a felony may serve as Sheriff. N.C. Const. Art. VII § 2. The impetus for that constitutional amendment is old news—you can read more about it here.
In other news:
- The United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in Maples v. Thomas on Thursday, reversing the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals’ denial of habeas review and holding there was ample cause to excuse the procedural default in Maples’ capital case resulting from his former attorneys’ failure to file a timely appeal from the trial court’s denial of postconviction relief. The “unusual circumstances of the case” do not cast a favorable light upon either Sullivan & Cromwell, whose associates left the firm while Maples’ petition for relief was pending, abandoning Maples’ case and failing to so inform him, or the state of Alabama, whose practice of undercompensating death penalty trial counsel and failing to guarantee to indigent capital defendants in postconviction proceedings is chronicled in the opinion.
- Closer to home, many of you, like us, recently received copies of the 2011 edition of North Carolina Criminal Law and Procedure published by LexisNexis. It’s worth noting that these books (like the 2011 edition of the Annotated General Statutes of North Carolina also published by LexisNexis) are current only through 2011 Session Law 411. This means that they do not include changes to the Justice Reinvestment Act made by S.L. 2011-412 (H 335). So, in addition to the new book, you may want to take your Ipad to court.
- Speaking of S.L. 2011-412, that law changed the effective date for the new civil license revocation for provisional licensees from October 1, 2012 to January 1, 2012. There have been a number of inquiries about that law of late, so I asked the Administrative Office of the Courts how many G.S. 20-13.3 revocations had been issued so far. The tally as of Thursday morning was 57 revocations. Johnston County, the home of the bill’s sponsor, had 9 revocations—the most of any county to date.
- Finally, the News and Observer reported yesterday that that Durham defense attorney Kerry Sutton has filed an affidavit seeking Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline’s removal from office pursuant to G.S. 7A-66. The grounds for removal alleged in the affidavit are habitual intemperance and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute. This is the latest development to follow Cline’s efforts to disqualify Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson from presiding over criminal cases in Durham County—efforts that Cline reportedly has said will continue “at all costs.” So who reviews Sutton’s allegations? G.S. 7A-66 requires review and action by the senior resident superior court judge (Judge Hudson) unless he refers the matter to another superior court judge in the district, a move that the News and Observer calls likely. Stay tuned for further developments.