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Justice Denied

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"If we are to right the ship, the Judicial Branch will need sufficient investment from this General Assembly to ensure that we adequately fund the basic operations of the court system. . . . If we cannot pay for these basic services, we cannot conduct timely trials. We all know that justice delayed is justice denied."

These comments were delivered by North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin on March 4, 2015 during the first State of the Judiciary address to the North Carolina General Assembly in 14 years.  The Chief Justice was referring to years of cuts to the Administrative Office of the Courts and he sought increased funding to make sure the judiciary could function at full capacity and resolve cases quickly and appropriately. 

While the Chief Justice accurately laid out the critical needs of North Carolina’s court system in 2015, he could not even begin to address the dire needs within the rest of the justice system during his speech.  As recently as last month, Commissioner David Guice, head of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice within the Department of Public Safety, spoke publicly regarding the mental health crisis in our prisons.  Commissioner Guice told the News and Observer, “Emergency rooms, jails, and prisons have become the de facto mental health hospitals,”and said he was calling on lawmakers to provide more funding for treatment for mental illness within prisons.  Commissioner Guice understands that in most cases, those behind bars are eventually released and everyone would be safer if their mental health concerns could be addressed in prison.

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The Board of Directors of the ACLU of North Carolina today announced that it has hired Karen Anderson as our organization's new Executive Director.

A passionate civil libertarian with a strong leadership background, Karen is joining us from New Hampshire, where she has spent the last 15 years as Director of Administration and Finance for the Office of the New Hampshire Public Defender. In that role, she had primary responsibility for all corporate, financial, and business matters, including strategic planning, human resources and more.

Karen is also no stranger to the ACLU: she currently serves as President of the Board of the ACLU of New Hampshire and previously served as that affiliate's representative on the National ACLU Board.

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by Chris Brook, Legal Director, ACLU of North Carolina

Local government meetings are a vital part of American democracy. Unlike the U.S. Congress and most state legislatures, town council and county commission meetings commonly allow space for local residents to stand before their elected officials and others in attendance to make public comments on the issues of the day.  It’s an opportunity provided equally to all citizens. Rowan County, North Carolina, is no exception to this practice.

However, in recent years, the Rowan County Commissioners have conducted their public meetings in a way that has not only made many residents feel unwelcome and unequal but has also coerced those in attendance to take part in prayers that do not comport with their personal religious beliefs.

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WILMINGTON, N.C. – The New Hanover County Public Library is hosting a 10-panel history exhibit, “ACLU of North Carolina: Fifty Years of Protecting Liberty,” that chronicles the American Civil Liberties Union’s work defending civil liberties in North Carolina since the founding of its North Carolina affiliate in 1965. The New Hanover County Public Library is located at 201 Chestnut Street in Wilmington.

The exhibit, which recounts the ACLU of North Carolina’s work on eight key civil liberties issues – free speech, voting rights, privacy rights, criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, women’s rights, racial justice, and religious liberty – is on display in Wilmington through September 4. It was previously displayed at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro and Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte and is scheduled to be on display at the Chapel Hill Public Library later this fall.

The ACLU of North Carolina was founded by a committed group of volunteers in 1965 to challenge North Carolina’s “speaker ban,” which prohibited so-called “radicals” from speaking at state universities; the ACLU-NC successfully challenged the law in court as a violation of the First Amendment. At the time, there were about 300 dues-paying ACLU members in the state. Fifty years later, the ACLU-NC boasts a full-time staff based in Raleigh and more than 10,000 members and supporters across the state. The organization has gone on to play a leading role in legal and advocacy campaigns to protect voting rights, secure the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, reform North Carolina’s criminal justice system, and defend many other civil liberties over the past 50 years.

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) today announced the appointment of Sarah Preston to serve as the organization’s acting executive director, following the resignation of Jennifer Rudinger, the ACLU-NC’s executive director for the past 11 years.

Preston has worked at the ACLU-NC for more than 8 years, overseeing the group’s legislative and policy work on a wide range of civil liberties issues, including reproductive freedom, religious liberty, LGBT equality, criminal justice reform, and privacy rights.  

Rudinger, who previously worked as executive director of the ACLU of Alaska, is stepping down after 20 years at the ACLU in order to travel, spend time with friends and family, and address some health issues.

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