“Fourth Circuit urged to strike down North Carolina election libel law”

Courthouse News Service:

A Fourth Circuit panel heard arguments Tuesday over whether the campaign committee for North Carolina’s Democratic attorney general should face criminal charges under a state law banning the spread of false information to damage a candidate’s shot at winning an election.

During the 2020 election for state attorney general, Democratic incumbent Josh Stein released a TV ad accusing his Republican challenger, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, of ignoring 1,500 untested rape kits in his district. 

Following the release of the ad, O’Neill promptly filed a complaint with the North Carolina State Board of Elections. He asked its members to investigate the ad under an obscure state law that bars candidates from making false and derogatory statements about their opponent that would hurt their chances of winning.

The briefs in Grimmett v. Freeman are here. The recording of oral argument in front of Judges Diaz, Rushing, and Heytens is here.

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