Chair’s Comments: 2017-18 Officers Elected, Walter E. Dellinger III Honored, CLE on HB2 Held

By Robert Ward

The council held a brief meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2017. John Branch, chair of the Law School Committee, reported on a potential law school forum program which may be considered during the fall of 2017. Colin Shive, editor for our blog, The Constitutionalist, related that there would be forthcoming blog articles. Patricia Perkins presented the treasurer’s report, and a discussion ensued regarding the use of any potential section budget surplus. In this connection, Andi Bradford will consult LRE for recommendations for council consideration at the next council meeting.

As has been the custom, the Annual Meeting of the Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities Section was held in conjunction with the section’s sponsored CLE. The topic this year was North Carolina House Bill 2. At noon, the section meeting convened and for the agenda the nomination committee submitted a slate of officers and members for consideration by the section. The first agenda item was the nomination of Chair Michele Luecking-Sunman and Vice Chair Patricia Perkins to be submitted to and recommended for appointment by NCBA President-Elect Caryn Coppedge McNeill. Second, Secretary Tami Fitzgerald and Treasurer Chris Brook were elected. Third, the section elected four new Council members: Leto Copeley, Scott Gaylord, Ann McColl and Tom Segars. I extend my congratulations to them on their election and commend them for their willingness to serve our section for the upcoming 2017-2018 council year.

Next on the agenda was the presentation of the John McNeill Smith, Jr. Constitutional Rights and Responsibilities Section Award by past chair, Hugh Stevens, to Walter E. Dellinger III. Walter Dellinger is a North Carolina native and a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale Law School. He is the Douglas B. Maggs Professor Emeritus of Law at Duke University and head of the appellate practice at O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C.

Hugh Stevens in his presentation recounted how Professor Dellinger has promoted the awareness and understanding of the Constitution of the United States and the North Carolina Constitution.

Professor Dellinger served as assistant attorney general of the United States and head of the office of legal counsel from 1993 until 1996. In that capacity, he served as the U.S. Justice Department’s principal legal advisor to the attorney general and President Bill Clinton. Professor Dellinger has published articles on constitutional issues for scholarly journals including “Harvard Law Review,” “Yale Law Journal” and “Duke Law Journal” and has written articles for The New York Times, The Washington Post, “Newsweek,” “The New Republic” and “The London Times.” Professor Dellinger throughout his career has encouraged the respect for the American Constitutional system and the rule of law and especially by serving as acting solicitor general of the United States for the 1996-97 term of the Supreme Court. During his tenure as the principal advocate for the U.S. government before the court, Professor Dellinger argued nine cases before the court, the most by any solicitor general in more than 20 years. In addition to his teaching writing, and public service, Professor Dellinger has helped promote the discussion and debate on constitutional issues by the public and the legal profession by making himself available in a wide array of settings to analyze, discuss and debate important constitutional issues. Hugh Stevens, in his remarks stated: “Naturally, these and his many other achievements has caused me to admire him for his energy and his intellect, but even more impressive are his abiding passion for constitutional law and his unwavering belief in the rule of law. Not incidentally, he also happens to be an exceedingly nice man, a terrific story teller, and a model of probity and professionalism. No one I know, and few if any whom I have ever known, would be a more worthy recipient of an award named for ‘Mac’ Smith.”  I congratulate Walter Dellinger on an honor so well deserved.

The CLE — North Carolina House Bill 2 was outstanding. As you might imagine, this topic precipitated a number of questions and lively exchanges with the speakers. Attendees at one point gave up their break to pose questions to and engage in exchanges with the speakers. This program included a comprehensive overview of updates and amendments to HB2; two different perspectives of the constitutionality of HB2 from a due process and equal protection standpoint; a review of the Title VII/1981/NC statutory and common law perspectives on HB2; ethics issues in working with LGBT clients; the interplay between local and state authority, and the role of municipalities under the North Carolina Constitution; and status of current litigation surrounding HB2. I extend my thanks to our CLE Committee Co-Chairs Kristen Del Forge, Eric Doggett and Adam Doerr on a very interesting and timely statewide topic. Also,  on behalf of the council members, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the CLE speakers: Enrique Armijo, Susanna S. Birdsong, Frayda S. Bluestein, Christopher A. Brook, Gerry F. Cohen, Eric L Doggett, N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson, Crystal Richardson, Gregory E. Wallace and Laura J. Wetsch.

As always, a note of appreciation is in order for our council members, committee chairs, Andi Bradford and Coleta Bell, and all the other staff members of the N.C. Bar Association who are always available to assist the council in its council activities and section meetings as well as orchestrating the many elements necessary for our annual CLE program.