The General Assembly’s in session, and Republican legislators are moving to amend the Racial Justice Act. An AP article on point states that the proposal would “strip away much of the act,” but doesn’t delve into specifics. As far as I can tell, the current version of the bill under discussion is this one. Among other things, it would require the defendant to show evidence of discrimination in the county or prosecutorial district in question (the act currently allows the defendant to establish discrimination in the relevant judicial division or in the state as a whole); would limit the relevant time period to two years before and after the defendant’s death sentence; and would make statistical evidence alone insufficient to establish discrimination.
In other legislative news, the General Assembly has passed some relatively technical changes to the Innocence Commission; a bill has been introduced that would tax internet sweepstakes; and there’s a proposal to criminalize selling a child (a murky area under current law, as I noted here).
Meanwhile, removed-pending-appeal Durham DA Tracey Cline has asked the state to pay the cost of her appeal. According to the News and Observer, the state’s paying to defend the removal order but doesn’t seem inclined to cover Cline’s expenses.
The media hasn’t paid much attention to the North Carolina Supreme Court race between incumbent Justice Paul Newby and Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin. However, it did get some coverage this week when a new, mostly Republican, super PAC announced plans to raise money to support Justice Newby. The New York Times views this as a negative development and wonders whether Judge Ervin’s supporters will form their own super PAC.
Super PACs and wealthy folks go together like hot dogs and mustard. And the Wall Street Journal reports here on one wealthy person, former Solicitor General Ted Olson. His hourly billing rate, disclosed in connection with a bankruptcy matter on which he worked, is the highest ever reported for an attorney: $1,800. Supply and demand, I guess. There aren’t that many former SGs out there.
A couple of digital surveillance stories cropped up this week. First, the Wall Street Journal noted here that the federal government is arguing that warrantless GPS tracking of cars is a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. I noted the possibility of such an argument here, but I’m skeptical. Stay tuned. Second, a federal magistrate judge wrote an interesting article, available here, estimating that the federal courts issued at least 30,000 sealed electronic surveillance orders in 2006, and arguing that such orders are kept too secret for too long.
Finally, a story that is either an example of European humanitarianism or European idiocy, depending on your point of view. Anders Breivik, the Norweigan who killed 77 of his countrymen, mostly children, appears to be headed to prison. The maximum sentence under Norweigan law is 21 years, and the story reveals that it may not be very hard time. The likely destination prison is planning a “professional community” for Breivik: guards may be required to play sports with him, and the prison intends to hire someone to play chess with him. No word on whether piano lessons will be offered.