A decision by a Wake County District Judge to dismiss the cases against five Moral Monday protesters could affect many more of them. Judge Joyce Hamilton came out of retirement to help decide many of the cases.
Last week, Hamilton considered a recent Supreme Court decision that prohibited Massachusetts from blocking protesters in a buffer zone around abortion clinics before making her decision.
Durham defense lawyer Scott Holmes said Hamilton dismissed five Moral Monday cases from last July 15th on the grounds that General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver's order to disperse was unconstitutional.
“When protesters were asked to move, they moved. And when they were asked to be quiet, they were quiet,” Holmes said. “And therefore, kicking everybody out just because, in Chief Weaver's mind, they were causing a disturbance, really didn't protect the rights of the folk who were being peaceful and protesting in a way that was being protected.”
Hamilton asked Holmes to draft an order with facts about the decision and her reasoning. Holmes is an attorney at Brock and Meece, and directs the Civil Litigation Clinic at N.C. Central University. He has represented more than 100 demonstrators.
Raleigh-based Poyner Spruill attorney Robbie Howell represented three of the five protesters whose cases were dismissed last week. He said Judge Hamilton upcoming order is non-binding, but could carry weight with other District Court judges overseeing these trials.
“I think that if Judge Hamilton issues a well-reasoned decision that applies the new law to our facts, that it will make it more difficult for another district court judge to come in behind her and find something that's contrary to her order,” Howell said.
The Wake County District Attorney's office did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.
More than 900 people were arrested in the Legislature building last year and charged with trespassing and failure to disperse. Trials began last October.