Two weeks ago I asked the question, should the NC Supreme Court get involved in veto-gate. Specifically, I raised this issue: Can the court extend its reach to cover the act of lying by elected officials?
These are strange times. Governments around the world are struggling with all kinds of chaos, just like we are. In Great Britain, for example, the Scottish Supreme Court last week ruled that Boris Johnson's suspension of parliament was illegal because he lied about his motivations. An extraordinary step for extraordinary circumstances. A ruling against lying.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of England made just such a ruling, smacking down PM Boris Johnson for lying to the Queen.
As I understand the ruling, it went beyond precedent to affirm a bigger and broader truth: Lying is wrong.
While lying to the Queen might not fall specifically into the catgegory of treason, it would largely depend whether the act of ‘misleading the Queen’ is regarded as disloyal as to whether treason had been committed under those circumstances. Acts of disloyalty to the Queen can still be punishable with a life sentence in prison, although such acts used to be punishable by death. Britain’s Treason Act was written in 1351 and is still in force to this day – albeit with amendments which have been made over the centuries – but is not commonly used these days.
Here in North Carolina, we don't have a queen, but we actually have a greater sovereign ... the people. That's clearly established in Article I of our state constitution.
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.
And so, this question must be asked: Should we, as a people, tolerate lying by our representatives? And if not outright lying, should we tolerate misleading?
No matter how you parse it, the actions by Speaker Tim Moore and his ruling party clearly rise to the level of misleading. Through a series of deceptive communications and trickery, Mr. Moore orchestrated a political stunt and overrode Governor Cooper's veto of the state budget. Call it what you will, but most people would agree it was sneaky and beneath what we expect from our elected representatives.
I believe the Governor, Democratic members of the House, the Attorney General, and We the People should escalate the matter in any way possible so that we get it in front of the NC Supreme Court urgently. And we should ask the Court to vacate the override vote because it was orchestrated through deception. Is there precedent for this kind of action? I don't think so ... except in Great Britain, where the precedent is fresh and clear: lying will not be tolerated.
Our state and our country have reached a tipping point, where lies and deception are being normalized. We desperately need to reset our expectations for government and insist that something as basic as truth-telling be adhered to. Only the NC Supreme Court can do that ... and that's exactly what should happen right now.
It's worth noting that Democratic Representative Darren Jackson has hinted that litigation is being considered. Speaker Moore responded with an ad hominem attack calling Jackson "ignorant."
“To think that a member of the House on a political question would want to involve the courts on the functions of the House,” Moore said. “It just shows a complete ignorance of the rules and the laws that govern the General Assembly.”
I suggest it is Tim Moore who is ignorant. He believes that lying should be allowed and that the courts have no say in the matter. He believe the General Assembly is above the law. Fortunately for the People, the courts are a co-equal branch of state government. They have wide authority to act in defense of the NC Constitution. This is not a political question, this is an ethical and moral question. It needs to be asked.