Eugenics Victims File Brief in Appeal to NC Supreme Court

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On July 11, 2016, three heirs of individuals forcibly sterilized under North Carolina’s forty-year eugenics program filed a brief in their appeal to the North Carolina Supreme Court, continuing their effort to obtain restitution for the injustices their families suffered at the hands of the State Eugenics Board.

These family members of the victims of the state’s forced sterilization program have been denied restitution because of the Eugenics Compensation Act’s so-called “living victim threshold,” which requires that sterilization victims be alive on June 30, 2013 to be eligible for compensation. In February, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the appellants’ constitutional challenge to the living victim threshold. Instead, the court held that the appellants must begin the process all over again and present their constitutional claim to a three-judge panel convened in Wake County Superior Court.

In their brief to the North Carolina Supreme Court, the appellants maintain that the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to hear their constitutional challenge, given the court’s broad appellate jurisdiction and the specific language of the Eugenics Compensation Act. Forcing these eugenics victims to instead present their constitutional challenge to a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court would only delay resolution of their claims, impacting not only these victims, but also others who qualified for compensation and cannot receive their final restitution payments until all appeals are resolved. It is worth noting that the same interests in fully and finally addressing the manifest injustice visited on these victims and their families that allowed the Court of Appeals to consider the merits of these claims also applies to the Supreme Court, before which these cases are now pending.

North Carolina’s Eugenics program was one of the most aggressive in the nation, forcibly sterilizing more than 7,600 people—disproportionately non-white women—that the state deemed “unfit” to bear children. While most American eugenics programs were shut down after World War II in the wake of revelations of Nazi atrocities, North Carolina’s program continued to victimize vulnerable residents for another 30 years. Finally, in 2013, after decades of advocacy and investigation by victims and their families, and their supporters in the legislature, the Eugenics Compensation Act was passed. Of the thousands of victims of the program, only 800 claims were filed, and only 220 were found to be “qualified” to receive compensation.

Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Tue. July 19, 2016 4:00 PM
Categories: Race Discrimination, Sterilization
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