Friday, January 20, 2012

Column: Greeting from Sen. Kinnaird

Dear Friends,
Last week I attended a news conference of the coalition of Partners Against Human Trafficking on the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness. The campaign runs through Feb. 1, the date the 13th Amendment ending slavery was passed. Information may be found by writing to In addition to bringing to the public’s attention the devastating human trafficking business, they recognized people who have worked to stop this unspeakable activity. The recognition included a young Asheville high school girl who is raising money for a shelter for trafficked teens, the Salvation Army and local groups throughout the state that are providing shelter for rescued victims. Legal Aid provides legal help to keep the victims from being deported back to the country that trafficked them to the U.S.
Human trafficking is the largest criminal enterprise after drug trafficking. In fact, many of the major drug traffickers also deal in human trafficking. This horrific activity that occurs throughout the world, including the United States, preys on young girls and some boys who are then subjected to rape and sexual abuse. North Carolina has both sex and labor trafficking, where Interstate 95/40 is a major route. The press conference emphasized that this is modern-day slavery. Part of the awareness campaign is to stop the buying of the victims, asking, “who is the buyer?”
I was the author of both the criminal statutes on trafficking and services to provide shelter, sustenance and legal protection to victims.

I serve on the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on Crime Control and Public Safety. One of the recurring questions is how to measure workload to determine pay for our court personnel: clerks, judges, district attorneys, etc. Studies on those groups have been done in the past, and this year the Judicial Department Workload Formulas were brought before the committee by the Administrative Office of the Courts to determine Superior Court workload to pay. The report, requested by the General Assembly, looked at workload indicators from the past and a 2007 collaboration with the National Center for State Courts. To determine a formula that is data driven, the report focuses on the most common work performed.
The questions are whether some counties and districts have more judges than they need while others are severely shorthanded. (Of course, this will stop the practice of legislators getting extra judges for their district to satisfy constituents.) Judges will be asked to keep track of their tasks and the time spent on each task for a month. In addition, there is a weighting system as not all cases use the same amount of time to complete. The cases range from traffic, to DWI all the way to sex crimes and first-degree murder. They have assigned the time in minutes, e.g. traffic cases at four to six minutes all the way to 10,172 minutes for first-degree murder.
Using this formula, the budget should have (but didn’t) included the addition of 354 assistant and deputy clerks, 69 additional district court judges, 100 district attorneys and 47.5 victim witness/legal assistants. This study of our court system shows the legislature takes the use of tax-payer money into consideration on a continuing basis.

I am relieved we have left Iraq and now hope we will leave Afghanistan as soon as possible (though not 2014.) The shocking allegations against four Marines that emerged this last week remind me of Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D- CA) statement explaining her vote against the Afghanistan war, “Let us not become the evil that we deplore."
A general, while in no way condoning the acts of the Marines, pointed out that it is a difficult situation when young men are taught to kill, to keep parameters on war-time actions. On this weekend honoring Martin Luther King Jr., we remember that the Rev. King was excoriated for opposing the Vietnam War, but, as the case with so much of his vision, he was proved right. His words inspire us today. “A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
Let us affirm our beliefs in spiritual uplift.

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