News Roundup

Carolina Public Press reports that last week three current and former employees of the Cherokee County Department of Social Services were indicted on a range of charges arising from an alleged “yearslong Cherokee County DSS practice that separated children from their parents without the oversight of a judge.” Former Cherokee DSS director Cindy Palmer (who now is the department’s business officer), former Child Protective Unit supervisor David Hughes, and the department’s former attorney, Scott Lindsay, were charged with various felonies and misdemeanors arising from the practice.  Keep reading for more on this story and other news.

Cherokee.  The CPP report says that during Cindy Palmer’s tenure as the director of Cherokee County DSS, the department used so-called “custody and visitation agreements” (CVAs) to separate children from their families outside of the normal child welfare process.  In an interview on WUNC’s The State of Things, CPP investigative reporter Kate Martin said that at times Cherokee DSS would approach a parent with a CVA and explain that the parent could either sign the agreement, which apparently purported to relinquish the parent’s right to custody of their child, or that their child would be placed in foster care in a remote location.  The effect of this alleged practice was to illegally remove the termination of parental rights process from judicial oversight.  Each of the defendants was charged with obstruction of justice, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and willful failure to discharge the duties of their offices.  Palmer also faces a perjury charge. 

Webinar.  Do you like to keep up to date with the latest criminal law opinions from the North Carolina appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court?  Do you like dynamic visual presentations, live audio, and interactive Q&A?  Do you need 1.5 hours of general CLE credit that also qualifies for NC State Bar criminal law specialization credit?  If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then mark your calendar for next Friday, June 5, because the 2020 Summer Criminal Law Update is coming your way from 1:30-3:00pm.  John Rubin, Phil Dixon, and Jonathan Holbrook are running the event and more information is available at the link, just make sure to sign up by the registration deadline at 5:00pm on Wednesday, June 3.

New IDS Executive Director.  The North Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense Services announced this week that is has appointed Mary Pollard as the new Executive Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services for North Carolina.  As the press release explains, Pollard practiced civil litigation at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice before joining the Center for Death Penalty Litigation in 2002.  Beginning in 2009, Pollard served as Executive Director of North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services.  Pollard is expected to start at IDS in August and she replaces Thomas Maher, who has served as Executive Director of IDS for the past 11 years.

Minneapolis.  Tension has been building in Minneapolis this week following the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody on Monday.  According to news reports, Minneapolis police were responding to a report of a suspected forgery when they discovered Floyd in a car and ordered him out.  The Minneapolis Police Department said that Floyd physically resisted officers but that they were able to handcuff and restrain him; they also noticed that he “appeared to be suffering medical distress.”  At some point during the encounter, a bystander began capturing cellphone video which shows an officer pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck for five minutes while Floyd clearly pleas that he can’t breathe.  Citizens at the scene repeatedly admonished the officers that Floyd appeared to be in great distress throughout the ordeal.

As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, on Tuesday the city’s chief of police fired four officers involved in the arrest, including Derek Chauvin, who pinned Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee, and Tou Thao, who stood by as it happened.  Soon after the incident the shocking bystander footage had been distributed widely on the internet, sparking outrage and protests.  On Wednesday night, the city suffered looting, burning, and other damage that spread to nearby St. Paul, and on Thursday afternoon Minnesota Governor Tim Walz activated the National Guard to restore order in the city.

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