Ensuring equal access to justice

The Observer editorial board

With police-related shootings in Ferguson, Mo., and other places making headlines, we’ve heard a lot lately about the importance of equal protection and equal justice under the law.

On Thursday, two local organizations central to that pursuit celebrated another year of service to the community. Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont and Legal Aid of North Carolina-Charlotte have been working for nearly five decades to make sure people who can’t find or afford lawyers get proper legal representation.

The nonprofit groups over the past year helped more than 4,500 people in civil cases concerning issues ranging from immigration to consumer protection to veterans’ affairs.

At the group’s annual “Justice For All” fundraising lunch, N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin noted that, while our justice system isn’t perfect, its ability to fairly resolve disputes is a measure of who we are as a people.

“The goal of the legal system is to ensure that the law is applied fairly and uniformly to all citizens regardless of their race, religion, socioeconomic status or any other factor,” he said. “It is well worth it to ensure that the rights of each of our citizens are protected.”

Here’s to continued success and growth for these two legal services providers. As we see in the ongoing tensions in Ferguson, people unwisely take matters into their own hands when they believe they can’t get justice within the system.

It’s up to our elected leaders and justice officials to make sure that’s never the case.

Move primary to March 1

N.C. Republicans should probably take a hint from Scott Walker’s itinerary this week.

The Wisconsin governor is scheduled to blitz across South Carolina Thursday and Friday, visiting Rock Hill, Greenville, Columbia and Charleston. This follows considerable courting in Iowa and New Hampshire.

And North Carolina? Not even a hello, even though the state’s GOP presidential primary is scheduled to be held just three days after South Carolina’s first-in-the-South contest.

Why would a presumed presidential candidate like Walker court South Carolina but not delegate-rich North Carolina?

N.C. legislators, tired of holding an irrelevant presidential primary in May every four years, moved it way up the calendar. But that violates Republican National Committee rules and the state stands to lose 80 percent of its delegates if it goes through with its plan.

Legislators should adopt GOP Chairman Claude Pope’s recommendation: Move the primary to March 1. That stays within national Republican rules while still thrusting North Carolina into the thick of early contests.

The RNC holds the cards. We’re guessing N.C. Repubs will soon come to grips with that.