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On Tuesday, August 11th Session officially adjourned for 2009. The North Carolina House and Senate will reconvene on May 12, 2010 at 12 noon.

On Monday evening, the House concurred in the Senate's amended version of HB 1261 Protect Our Kids/ Cyber Bullying Misdemeanor. While the ACLU-NC was able to secure a number of changes to the bill, there are still very real free speech concerns about the bill as passed. The bill makes it a class 1 or 2 misdemeanor, depending on the accused's age, to send repeated communications to a minor, or to post real or doctored photos or post private or personal info about a minor with the intent to intimidate or torment the minor. While some of the more objectionable provisions - prohibiting communications that embarrass the minor or sending repeated insults to or about a minor - were removed by the Senate, the bill is still too vague. The Constitution demands that, in the area of free speech, the law be clear enough so that individuals are on notice of what communications violate the statute and must not permit or encourage arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. By not defining "intimidate" or "torment," the law gives unfettered discretion to law enforcement officers to determine what those terms mean to them. In the area of speech making sure that laws are clear is especially important so that people can easily discern the distinction between criminal activity and the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights.

However, on the bright side, Governor Perdue signed the Racial Justice Act in to law on Tuesday during a public signing ceremony. The new law will allow capital defendants and death row inmates the opportunity to challenge the sentence of death if they can show that race played a substantial role in them being tried capitally or being sentenced to death. If the judge agrees that race played a substantial role, she or he may reduce the sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) today called upon the North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) to narrow the scope of a demand for customer data issued in March pursuant to its ongoing audit of Amazon. According to news reports and a complaint filed by Amazon Monday against NCDOR in federal court in Seattle, Washington, in NCDOR’s attempts to ensure that Amazon is in full compliance with North Carolina’s sales and use tax laws, the Department is demanding that Amazon turn over personally identifiable information linked to specific purchasing records for customers in North Carolina who have purchased books, movies, music, and other items containing expressive content going all the way back to August 2003.

According to the Amazon lawsuit, compliance with the NCDOR’s demands would reveal the identities of hundreds of thousands of Amazon customers in North Carolina who have purchased more than 30 million lawful expressive works from Amazon in the last 6½ years and would identify specifically which books, movies, music and other expressive works were purchased by which customers. The Complaint lists examples of books that North Carolinians have purchased, including books on such sensitive topics as bipolar disorder, living with alcoholism, infertility, and how to come out of the closet as a member of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community, as well as sensitive movies and works of music on controversial topics. Amazon’s lawsuit alleges that NCDOR’s demands violate the First Amendment to the US Constitution, various provisions of the Washington State Constitution, and a 1998 federal law called the Video Privacy Protection Act.

The following statement was faxed to Secretary Kenneth Lay at the NCDOR this morning and may be attributed to Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina: