The attorney for the so-called “Orange County Five” says he’s encouraged by the recent dismissal in Wake County District Court of five other Moral Monday protester cases, based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protest-free “buffer zones” on public property around abortion clinics are unconstitutional.
Orange County Commissioner Mark Dorosin is also the managing attorney for the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
He’s representing the “Orange County Five” – a group of elected officials that was arrested last year for trespassing during protests of Republican policies at the North Carolina General Assembly.
Those protesters are Carrboro Alderpersons Michelle Johnson, Damon Seils, and Sammy Slade; former Carrboro mayor and now Orange County Register-of-Deeds-Elect Mark Chilton; and Chapel Hill Town Council Member Donna Bell.
Last week, Wake County Judge Joyce Hamilton dismissed “Moral Monday cases, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling on that Massachusetts abortion clinic case, McCullen vs. Coakley.
Dorosin told WCHL he was as surprised as anybody.
“Moral Monday lawyers have been making the constitutional argument in all the Moral Monday trials that have gone on so far,” said Dorosin, “and until now, Judge Hamilton has rejected those arguments.”
He said he always believed that the order to arrest the protesters was unconstitutional. He and some of his clients have informed WCHL in the past that they were looking forward to making that case in Superior Court.
But if Hamilton’s ruling sticks, it may not even be necessary.
“What’s interesting about the ruling, and what is hopeful for everyone involved is that, if in fact, the General Assembly police order that led to the arrest of everyone in the building, regardless of what they were doing – if in fact, that is unconstitutional, as Judge Hamilton has now indicated, then I believe all of the charges against all of the protesters should be dismissed,” said Dorosin.
Dorosin pointed out that as a district court judge, Hamilton has limited jurisdiction. However, Dorosin said he believes that attorneys representing other Moral Monday protesters in front of other judges will continue to cite McCullen vs. Coakley in their arguments, and that the outcomes will be the same.
“I mean, ideally, the D.A.’s office in Wake County will look carefully at [Hamilton’s] ruling, and the arguments that were made upon which it is based,” said Dorosin, “and take it upon themselves to recognize that there’s no rational basis to continue to try to prosecute these cases.”
Dorosin added that he would consider it “an ideal outcome” if charges against all Moral Monday protesters were dropped based on Judge Hamilton’s ruling.
The judge is expected to issue an order this week.