Last night I attended the annual awards banquet of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby was presented with the Peter Gilchrist Award, honoring an exemplary prosecutor, and Raleigh defense attorney Joe Cheshire was presented with the Wade Smith Award, honoring an exemplary defense lawyer. It was an incredible evening. The winners, and the speakers who introduced them, were funny, charming, humble, and eloquent. It made me feel great about our bar and it was a wonderful example of friendship and fellowship across the aisle. It inspired me to work harder to improve our justice system. The dinner moves me every year. Thanks to everyone who made the event possible, and congratulations to Colon and Joe.
In other news:
1. No one mentioned the Racial Justice Act at the dinner, which was probably a good thing, as it continues to be controversial. The Conference of District Attorneys is pushing for an overhaul of the law, as the News and Observer reports here. The House has already passed a bill in line with the prosecutors’ request and the Senate may take the issue up when it reconvenes at the end of the month. Supporters of the current law allege that the Conference’s arguments are misleading, as detailed here.
2. An important working relationship appears to be breaking down in Durham in a very public way. The News and Observer sums up the most recent development as follows: “District Attorney Tracey Cline late Thursday accused Orlando Hudson, the senior Superior Court judge . . . of ‘moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption’ in an extraordinary court filing related to recent high-profile cases in which Hudson has ruled against her. In the new 12-page filing, Cline said that she will seek to remove Hudson from overseeing any criminal case in Durham. And she disclosed that she has leveled a complaint of misconduct against Hudson with the state commission that oversees judges, a document that is secret under state law. In one passage, Cline writes that victims are being ‘raped’ by Hudson’s rulings.” Further details are here.
3. The New York Times recently ran this article about the ease with which felons in some states can have their gun rights restored. The tone of the piece suggested that it is a bad thing to allow convicted felons to have access to firearms, and, uh, there’s a certain intuitive logic to that position. But over at Sentencing Law and Policy, Doug Berman crunches the numbers and wonders whether restoring felons’ gun rights might actually reduce recidivism. Meanwhile, although North Carolina’s new statutory restoration procedure in G.S. 14-415.4 is quite stringent, the appellate courts continue to allow some felons who fall outside the scope of the statute to have their gun rights restored as a matter of constitutional law. The series of decisions in this area has attracted national attention, including here.
4. On the lighter side, my absolute favorite story of the week was this one at Yahoo! Sports. Some may remember Sean Bradley, 7’6″ former BYU star and NBA player. After retiring from basketball, Bradley took up bicycling to stay in shape. Not able to find a good fit at his local sporting goods store, Bradley had Trek build him a custom bike, which was recently stolen from a barn on Bradley’s property. The pool of reasonable suspects was rather limited: “My brother is 6 feet 10 inches and he can’t ride it,” Bradley said, suggesting that 7’4″ former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton was the only other person in the state who could fit the bike. Asked about seven footer Greg Ostertag, who also played for the Jazz, Bradley replied that he couldn’t even reach the pedals. That’s a big bike! Fortunately, the story has a happy ending: police recovered the bike and returned it to a grateful Bradley.