Appeals to Reason

By Matt Richardson | Cross Creek Divide| September 20, 2022

A few years ago, I represented a bail agent in a case before the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The facts were simple: A man was locked up in a Virginia jail and missed court in Fayetteville. His bond was forfeited for failing to appear. The bail agent filed a form to “set aside” the bond forfeiture, but she checked the box for incarcerations in North Carolina, not incarcerations in other states.

In North Carolina, forfeited bond money goes to the local school system, so a lawyer representing the school board objected. The matter went before Judge Jim Ammons.

At the hearing, the school board attorney argued that the form controlled and the defendant should forfeit $25,000 for missing court. Judge Ammons ruled that he would not forfeit the man’s bond because the wrong box was checked. The school board lawyer appealed Judge Ammon’s decision.

I made a late appearance in the case and stayed up all night writing a last-minute brief on behalf of the bail agent. We won in the end. The defendant didn’t lose his bond money because the wrong box was checked.

https://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=38857

It was a classic case of substance over form. Most would call it justice.

Ammons Rules in Favor of “Vote For Six”

A few weeks ago, Judge Ammons ruled in favor of several “Vote For Six” petitioners in his courtroom.

The Fayetteville City Council had voted (6-4) to stop a ballot initiative to put four “At-Large” seats on the council because a particular form wasn’t filled out at the start of the petition process. The Petitioners asked for emergency relief from the court. Judge Ammons ruled in their favor.

“Quite frankly, at the end of the day, a group of concerned citizens circulated a petition that the City Council fully knew about,” Ammons said. “They needed 5,000 signatures. They got those 5,000 signatures. Apparently, six out of 10 of the City Council arbitrarily decided that they weren’t going to allow the ballot to be printed.”

“I want to point everybody to the North Carolina Constitution, Article I, Section 2:  Sovereignty of the people,” Ammons said as he announced his decision in favor of Vote Yes Committee members Bobby Hurst, Karl Merritt and Suzanne Pennink. “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”

As it stands today, if you’re a citizen of Fayetteville, you will get to vote to alter the makeup of the city council in November’s election.

Colvin Appeals Ammons Ruling

After losing, Mayor Colvin called an emergency council meeting. Three members didn’t show up. The council voted (4-3) to appeal the decision.

The Court of Appeals recently ruled that the matter would remain on the ballot. However, the court has yet to decide the legal validity of the petition.

The result of all this is flat-out worrisome. We’re going to have an election in November where the citizens of Fayetteville will decide whether to change the makeup of our city council. Mayor Colvin and the council could then try to overturn the results by challenging the legal validity of the Petition in the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

All because of a form…

Battle Continues on the Air

Mayor Colvin went on 640am a few days ago and continued to fight the petition. To discredit it, he stated that there would be “six at-large seats” in the new arrangement and that these six would be a “controlling majority.”

https://omny.fm/shows/the-podcast-pepper/september-15-2022-mayor-mitch-colvin

Colvin was wrong, and the host tried to point it out, but Colvin continued to misrepresent the petition, which is strange because he’s one of the “six”:

The number “six” from “Vote For Six” includes:

  • 4 At-Large Seats
  • 1 District Seat
  • The Mayor’s Seat

You’ll get to vote to fill these “six” seats if the new arrangement passes.

Is Colvin intentionally misrepresenting the issue? Ask him. But you have to wonder if he read the petition before he decided to spend thousands of tax dollars in legal fees to appeal it.

Adding fuel to the fire, newly-elected councilman Mario Benavente made headlines last week when he accused Judge Ammons of judicial misconduct for even hearing the case:

https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/2022/09/15/mario-benavente-fayetteville-nc-councilman-accuses-judge-jim-ammons-misconduct/10371017002/

Benavente also went on 640am to talk about his accusations. He didn’t back down.

https://omny.fm/shows/the-podcast-pepper/september-16-2022-mario-benavente

Ultimately, Benavente admitted he had no evidence to support his claims.

A Final Appeal

This isn’t going well, folks.

We’re spinning off the rails here, heading full-speed into a political nightmare, and there’s no good reason for it. Colvin recently stated that the purpose of the appeal is to seek “clarity.” I’m forced to ask what clarity exists in trying to overturn the results of an election. Recent attempts to do so only caused hate, division, violence, and distrust in our system of government. If you want “clarity,” let the people decide, and then honor their decision.

Justice doesn’t come from a form.

The original story can be viewed on Cross Creek Divide.

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