The News & Observer reports that the General Assembly has passed a bill that reduces the number of judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from fifteen to twelve. The bill is controversial – supporters say that fewer judges are needed because the workload of the Court of Appeals has declined over the past decade while opponents say that the intent of the bill is to limit Governor Roy Cooper’s ability to replace judges who are approaching mandatory retirement. The legislation is House Bill 239, which Jeff mentioned a few weeks ago in a post about the court’s caseload.
This is the last post of the week as the SOG is closed tomorrow for a holiday, keep reading for more news.
Solitary. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice to investigate ways to reduce the use of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons and a report of the results has been released, according to this article from the Charlotte Observer. The Observer article says that the number of North Carolina inmates in solitary has been reduced by more than half since 2012, but that a number of problems with the state’s practice persist.
Forensic Science. The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that “he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.” Sessions also announced that the Justice Department would suspend a review of years of misleading FBI expert testimony about forensic hair and ballistic analysis. The Justice Department is said to be devising a forensic science strategy and is seeking comment on how the Department should move forward.
Roof Guilty Plea. As the Charleston Post and Courier reports, Dylann Roof pleaded guilty this week in state court to various charges including nine counts of murder based on shooting and killing nine black worshipers at a Charleston church in 2015. He was sentenced to consecutive life sentences on the murder charges, though he already was sentenced to death in a federal prosecution earlier this year. The report says that the resolution of the state charges means that Roof will be transferred to death row at a federal prison.
The Post and Courier has another article about Roof which says that he wrote to prosecutors on the eve of his federal trial saying that his defense attorneys were “the sneakiest group of people [he] had ever met” and were pursuing a strategy he didn’t agree with. In other documents discussed in the article, his defense attorneys indicate that Roof believed he would be rescued from prison by white nationalists and made governor of South Carolina.
Rookie Blues. Newly confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch may have thought that life on the bench of the nation’s highest court would be a breeze – maybe he’d cite Bob Dylan and probably school children would wear costumes in his likeness. But it’s not all rolling stones and notorious nicknames, according to Justice Elena Kagan, formerly the junior member of the court. Kagan says that Gorsuch likely will spend years on the cafeteria committee and, as “a form of hazing,” will be solely responsible for conference room door-opening.