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Carolina Journal Exclusives

Justice Orr Describes Institute’s Role

New organization might pursue litigation on business subsidies,
other issues

By Richard Wagner

August 17, 2004

RALEIGH — Hoping to restore the luster of the trampled North Carolina Constitution, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert F. Orr said Monday that a new organization he heads will promote the operation of state government based on constitutional principles.

The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law was founded in December 2003, Orr said, and he retired from the Supreme Court on July 31 to become executive director and senior legal counsel of the nonprofit organization. Orr spoke at a John Locke Foundation luncheon.

“The state Constitution has been vastly under-appreciated, under-recognized, and under-utilized,” Orr said in explaining the ICL’s mission to reverse the course of a state government that has wandered from the principles established by America’s Founding Fathers. The Founders considered the U.S. Constitution the single most important document upon which the Republic rests and which the state Constitution was written, Orr said.

Many of the most significant court decisions in North Carolina in the last 25 years were determined at the state level, Orr said. In line with that trend, ICL is examining many issues to determine which causes to undertake.

Among those issues are business subsidies and tax credits as a means of economic development, Orr said.

ICL may attempt to have the courts determine whether such subsidies fit the Constitution’s requirement that state government use public monies for “public purpose” only. ICL will “bell the cat,” Orr said, when the nonprofit warns the public of new government programs that prey on state citizens.

Justice Orr grew up in Hendersonville, N.C. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he earned both an undergraduate degree and law degree. He was admitted to the Bar in 1975 and entered law practice in Asheville, concentrating in civil trial work. Gov. James G. Martin appointed him to the N.C. Court of Appeals in September 1986. He was elected statewide on Nov. 8, 1988 and was re-elected Nov. 3, 1992. On Nov. 8, 1994, he was elected to an eight-year term on the N.C. Supreme Court and in 2002, was re-elected for another eight-year term.

Richard Wagner is the editor of Carolina Journal.