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North Carolina played a major role in shaping race-based busing and redistricting policies across the nation. Today, North Carolina is at the forefront of campaign finance reform, and has served as a model for a number of other states.
In the 1971 case North Carolina State Board of Education v. Swann, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s Anti-Busing Law, which prohibited schools from assigning students on the basis of race. The Court found that the North Carolina law hampered desegregation plans mandated by the Fourteenth Amendment because it prevented states from successfully integrating their schools.
North Carolina also helped shape redistricting and gerrymandering laws across the country. In the 1993 case Shaw v. Reno, the U.S. Supreme Court held that race-based redistricting plans must be reviewed using strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause; moreover, such plans must comply with the Voting Rights Act.
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Additionally, North Carolina has been a leader in campaign finance reform efforts. The state’s public financing system underwent major reformed in 2004; since then, it has been upheld twice – first by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2005 and, again by the Supreme Court of North Carolina in 2008.
Under the North Carolina law, candidates for the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are entitled to additional public campaign funds if they consent to certain fundraising rules. North Carolina’s Right to Life Committee has challenged the law, arguing that it violates the First Amendment. The group unsuccessfully claimed that because participating candidates are granted matching funds from the state to compete with outside groups or nonparticipating candidates who exceed spending limits, the law limits these outside groups’ speech. Proponents of the law assert that the program helps maintain the appearance of a nonpartisan judiciary because it makes it less likely that judges will be seen as favoring lawyers or clients who contributed to their campaigns.
According to a recent study by the American Bar Association measuring Americans’ perceptions of the country’s justice system, Americans are most confident in the U.S. Supreme Court. While a full half of respondents felt strong confidence in the nation’s highest court, only about one-third expressed strong confidence in the other federal courts, judges, and justice system as a whole. Moreover, merely 14% of respondents indicated that they were very confident in lawyers’ abilities.
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