Media Watch

No, Tim Moffitt can't overturn a Supreme Court decision

A state legislator cannot change a Supreme Court ruling but the lead headline in Friday's Citizen-Times was "Moffitt moves to change law after CTS ruling."


Neither Moffitt nor the newspaper is saying that Moffitt wants to change the law so that in the future citizens won't lose their right to sue. That would be entirely fitting. Instead, Moffitt said and the AC-T echoed that his law would change the ruling.

The reporter wrote, "The change in state law also could clear the way for legal claims by thousands of Marines and their families who were made sick by contamination at Camp Lejeune in eastern North Carolina."

No, it can't. 

Article 1 of the US Constitution forbids ex post facto laws: "No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

Moffitt is grandstanding by claiming he is doing something he can't do. He's fighting for his seat and it's understandable that he's trying to fool the voters. So if enough of them believe that he can change a Supreme Court decision, maybe he will be re-elected. 

But why is the Citizen-Times helping him?

If the paper had reported his claim and then explained the law, that would be one thing. But for them to repeat his absurd claim as fact is unfathomable.


Here’s the Citizen-Times story.


http://www.citizen-times.com/story/elections/2014/06/12/cts-supreme-court-law-change/10371193/


Moffitt moves to change law in wake of CTS ruling

Jon Ostendorff, June 12, 2014


RALEIGH - Rep. Tim Moffitt is asking House lawmakers to give people hurt by groundwater pollution more options to sue in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that blocked a lawsuit aimed at CTS Corp.

The change in state law could clear the way for legal claims by thousands of Marines and their families who say they were made sick by contamination at Camp Lejeune in eastern North Carolina.

It is unclear whether the neighbors of the CTS plant in Asheville would be able to proceed with their current legal case or be able to file a new claim should the bill be signed into law but lawmakers hope that will be the case.

House lawmakers replaced a Senate bill with legislation that says the North Carolina's 10-year statute of repose is not intended to bar people from suing for personal and property injury caused by consuming contaminated groundwater. The legislation is filed in what's known as a substitute bill for a Senate bill that would have dealt with court bonds. An earlier version of this report was wrong in saying the Senate was pushing the change.

The rules, according to legislation obtained Thursday, would apply to actions pending or arising on the date the bill becomes law. It says an action is considered pending if there has been no final court decision with prejudice against the plaintiff covering all the plaintiff's claims for relief.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled neighbors of the CTS plant on Mills Gap Road could not sue the company over contaminated their drinking water because the state's 10-year statute of repose deadline had passed.

RELATED STORY: Supreme Court rules against homeowners in CTS case

The justices ruled 7-2 that state law strictly bars any lawsuit brought more than 10 years after the contamination — even if residents did not realize their water was polluted until years later.

Moffitt, R-Asheville, and Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, led the effort to get the change filed this week. They had help from Rep. Nathan Ramsey, R-Fairview.

"It's immensely more fair to people," Moffitt said. "Essentially, in regards to CTS and Camp Lejeune, both federal and state institutions have failed to protect people from hazardous waste. The North Carolina General Assembly refuses to join the ranks of those who have failed these citizens."

Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Hendersonville, who is a lawyer, said goal is to allow the CTS case to continue.

"The hope is that this will knock out the affirmative defense put forward by the defendants in this lawsuit and therefore the pending lawsuit will just continue," he said.

Tate MacQueen, a plaintiff in the CTS lawsuit who is also running as a Democrat for Congress in the state's 10th District, said he's not sure of the legislation would allow the complaint to proceed.

"We have our fingers crossed and are holding our breath," he said. "We are excited by the prospect that we will ultimately be getting justice.

"We're very pleased we're seeing a rapid response legislatively. We are grateful to see the response out of Raleigh and we are cautiously optimistic this is going to go through."

Residents near the CTS plant first noticed the pollution in 1999, 13 years after the plant closed and 12 years after CTS sold the property.

The ruling also impacts Camp Lejeune, where health officials estimate as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to tainted groundwater over several decades. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed a bill into law providing health benefits to Marines and family members exposed to the water from 1957-87.

The high court ruling comes three days after the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that 13 residents near the former CTS plant move from their homes because of unsafe levels of the carcinogen TCE, trichlorethylene, in air vapor.