Longtime NC lawyer: In Trump search, AG Garland upheld the rule of law

·4 min read
Alex Brandon/AP

Welcome to NC Voices, where leaders, readers and experts from across North Carolina can speak on issues affecting our communities. Send submissions of 350 words or fewer to opinion@newsobserver.com.

On Mick Mulvaney and AG Garland

Mick Mulvaney says he is a conservative who wants to believe in blind justice. I share his concern for the rights of all whose homes and businesses are searched under the authority of court-ordered search warrants.

But where was Mulvaney when the catchy chants for “lock her up” aimed at Hillary Clinton were so prominent in Donald Trump’s rallies — even though the final, detailed review established no grounds for charging her with any crime? How many citizens know this was the outcome?

Trump was the first to speak out on the search of his home.

Attorney General Merrick Garland followed the law to its letter in the search of Mar-a-Lago. At Garland’s direction, government lawyers asked the court to seal the search warrant and the return documents. Trump — not the Justice Department — chose to make the search a national spectacle.

It’s worth remembering that back in 1995 the Justice Department chose Garland, then a deputy attorney general, to lead the prosecution in the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 and injured hundreds more in one of the deadliest domestic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. That grim prosecution, well before Garland became a US Court of Appeals judge for 24 years and then Attorney General, is part of his record of service of justice to our nation.

Mulvaney says he is “willing to acknowledge that Trump may have done something wrong.” Does this signal anything of significance to Mulvaney?

As a longtime Charlotte attorney, I have represented a multitude of individuals and companies over decades who were subjected to search warrants and grand jury subpoenas from the government. Some were charged; many were not. Trump’s lawyers have fought over responding to subpoenas, and last week advanced over 400 pleas of the Fifth Amendment privilege (in a civil, not criminal case).

Trump may or may not be charged. In the meantime, I hope all Americans, whatever their political inclination, will see the essential need to defend and uphold the rule of law. “Conservatives” and “liberals” have a duty to join in encouraging respect for our courts and their lawful processes.

Ed Hinson, Charlotte

Reinstate free school lunch for all

In North Carolina, one in six kids go hungry every day. The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges to ensuring every child had access to a healthy meal and the nutrition they need to thrive, but innovations granted by waivers of federal rules for child nutrition improved our ability to reduce food insecurity.

These innovations confirmed what we’ve always known to be true: School meals are an important tool to prevent childhood hunger and work best when all kids are equally able to access them.

Unfortunately, many of these innovations are scheduled to end, including the one that allowed all kids to eat meals at school at no cost to families. But acting now can help ensure N.C. kids don’t go hungry. I’d love to see the NC legislature use some of its huge surplus to enact permanent universal school meals statewide.

My family utilized the federal school lunch program during the pandemic, in part to support it but also to decrease stigma surrounding free school lunch.

It goes without saying that children have no control over their family’s income, or whether or not they have lunch money. Allowing all children to eat meals at school at no cost reduces shame and stigma, making the lunchroom just like any other part of school — a place where every child has access to the same tools.

School meals are a tool that works. They are associated with better academic outcomes, fewer disciplinary issues, and better attendance. My mother, a teacher in Ohio, used to spend thousands of dollars on food for her students each year because until basic needs are met, children simply cannot learn. She believed, as I do, that an ethical society feeds its children, knowing that investments in health and education pay dividends as they grow into adults.

It is past time for our state to rethink how we fund and support school nutrition programs to ensure every child has the same access to school meals. Without action, too many N.C. kids will be at risk of hunger again.

Sarah Stoeckel, Cary