by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
On Friday, April 3, JLF’s Jon Guze gave testimony to North Carolina’s General Statutes Commission. The commission has been tasked with examining local ordinances and determining if a pattern emerges that would justify creating any generally applicable state laws. Guze stated:
As Floyd Lewis explained at your February meeting, almost all of the local authorities and administrative agencies that were required to submit reports have done so. The result is a lot of reports—approximately 700 if I’m not mistaken. However, the sheer number of reports isn’t the main problem. As Mr. Lewis also explained, the reports vary widely in format, and—in many instances—in the reliability and helpfulness of the information they provide.
For the record, the John Locke Foundation has also reviewed those reports, and we concur with Mr. Lewis’s analysis. Given the current state of the crime reports, we don’t think it’s feasible for the Commission to make a final determination about whether any existing ordinance or regulatory crimes should be replaced with new statutory crimes
Rather than reformatting the submissions or extending the deadline, Guze recommended taking an entirely different approach:
In my view, the most constructive way forward would be for the Commission to recommend that the General Assembly relieve the Commission of its responsibility for determining whether any conduct currently criminalized by ordinance or regulation should be replaced by a generally applicable state law, and, instead, assign that task to a group of experts with the time and resources to carry it out properly. Given everything I’ve said up to now, you won’t be surprised to learn that I think the ideal group to undertake that task would be a criminal law recodification commission like the one recommended by Professor Smith…
For those of you who don’t know, Jessie is the W. R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Public Law and Government at the University of North Carolina School of Government, and she is, unquestionably, the leading expert on the criminal law in North Carolina. In 2017, she released a report explaining how the multi-faceted problem described above could be solved through a systematic process of recodification. Her report was well-received by legislators from both parties; so much so that, near the end of the 2017 session, legislation was introduced to create a recodification commission along the lines she had recommended. The bill didn’t come to a vote, but it came surprisingly close, despite being a new initiative introduced late in the session.