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Earlier today the United States Supreme Court struck down three of the four provisions of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, reaffirming the supremacy of federal control over immigration while stating that it is too early to tell if the fourth provision, Arizona’s so-called “show me your papers” policy, is unconstitutional as well.

In response, Raul Pinto, Racial Justice Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, offered the following statement:

“The Supreme Court’s decision today makes clear that aspects of Arizona’s law raise serious constitutional concerns and is further proof of why North Carolina should not follow Arizona’s path. We’ve seen the corrosive effects that laws like S.B. 1070 have on efforts to foster trust and cooperation within communities. Anti-immigrant laws modeled after Arizona’s undermine police work, harm businesses, threaten our most basic American values, and are proving to be a failed experiment that we must not repeat here. Similar laws are being challenged in every state in which they have been enacted because they result in racial profiling and other civil liberties violations. If an Arizona-style law was ever enacted in North Carolina, there is little doubt that it would be challenged as well.”

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WILMINGTON, N.C. – A North Carolina federal court has approved an agreement with a seafood company that will institute a gender non-discrimination policy and give back pay to three Mexican guest workers who claimed the company unlawfully restricted them to certain work solely because they are women.

The company will also reimburse the women and other guest workers for visa and travel costs and for wages the women, on behalf of a class of guest workers, claimed the company failed to pay them. Under a consent decree, the court will monitor the company for three years to ensure the terms of the settlement are enforced.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation and the North Carolina Justice Center filed the original lawsuit and charges of discrimination on behalf of the women.

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Racial Justice Act Passes First Test

Posted on in Racial Justice

Yesterday, a Forsyth County court found that the Racial Justice Act was constitutional. The law, passed in 2009 by the NCGA, allows a capital defendant to challenge just his sentence if he can prove that race played a substantial role in his receiving the death penalty. Prosecutors defending the use of capital punishment in two cases where RJA claims were brought tried to argue that the RJA was unconstitutionally broad and vague, but the court found that the law was within the North Carolina General Assembly’s powers as a way to address racial bias in the capital punishment system. The Racial Justice Act has overcome it’s first hurtle and the court will now start to hear arguments about whether race did play a role in these two cases.

While this is a great victory, the RJA’s days may be numbered as the new legislative leadership has indicated a desire to repeal the RJA or amend it so that it will not serve its purpose of addressing racial disparities in how death is meted out by the state. Ongoing work to defend and protect the Racial Justice Act will be necessary. Call your state Representative and Senator and ask them not to support attempts to tinker with the Racial Justice Act!

ELON, NC – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) today announced the successful resolution of a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of John W. Paylor, a resident of Elon and a 55-year-old grandfather who was shot twice with a Taser by Elon police officers on June 18, 2006. The officers had surrounded the home of Mr. Paylor in order to serve him with a misdemeanor arrest warrant for using profanity on a public highway and for reckless driving. A videotape of the incident shows that Mr. Paylor was unarmed, in his underwear, and presented no threat to the officers. Nevertheless, an Elon police officer shot Mr. Paylor with a Taser, causing him to fall from his porch. Then, while Mr. Paylor was lying on the ground, unable to move from the shock of being tased and from the fall down his steps, the officer tased him a second time. Mr. Paylor has sustained permanent physical scarring from the incident. The ACLU-NCLF filed a lawsuit against the Elon Police Department and the individual Elon police officers involved on behalf of Mr. Paylor for excessive use of force in March 2009.

A settlement agreement was finalized and executed earlier this week, and cooperating attorneys for the ACLU-NCLF have filed papers in court ending the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the Elon Police Department will implement measures designed to prevent excessive and unnecessary use of Tasers in the future. In particular, Elon police officers will undergo improved annual training on a new Taser policy and on Elon’s more general use-of-force policy. Elon’s new Taser policy must be consistent with policies in place in other North Carolina localities that include protections the ACLU believes are important to safeguard against excessive use of Tasers. For example, these policies prevent the use of Tasers against individuals, such as Mr. Paylor, who are not actively resisting officers. These policies also prohibit the use of Tasers against individuals, such as Mr. Paylor, who could potentially receive a secondary injury resulting from falling off an elevated location, and they also limit the number of times an individual can be tased. Other settlement terms include the following: (1) the officer who tased Mr. Paylor will undergo additional use-of-force and Taser training at the North Carolina Justice Academy; and (2) the Elon Police Chief will instruct all officers that anyone with a personal interest relating to the subject of a misdemeanor warrant shall refrain from serving such warrant in person, unless safety or exigent circumstances require that person to be present. Additionally, the Elon Police Department made a $50,000 settlement payment to Mr. Paylor for his physical, emotional and constitutional injuries.

“I am happy with this outcome,” said John Paylor. “What these officers did to me was wrong, and my hope is that this settlement will prevent others from having to suffer what I suffered at the hands of Elon police.”

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