IN THE MATTER OF HUGHES, by and through V. H. INGRAM, Administratrix of the Estate of Hughes, Claim for Compensation Under the North Carolina Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program, Claimant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF REDMOND, by and through L. NICHOLS, Administratrix of the Estate of Redmond, Claim for Compensation Under the North Carolina Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program, Claimant-Appellant. IN THE MATTER OF SMITH, Claim for Compensation Under the North Carolina Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program, Claimant-Appellant.
originally in the Court of Appeals 16 November 2015.
by Claimant-Appellant Hughes, by and through V.H. Ingram,
Administratrix of the Estate of Hughes, from amended decision
and order entered 28 April 2015 by the North Carolina
Industrial Commission N.C. Industrial Commission, I.C. No.
by Claimant-Appellant Redmond, by and through L. Nichols,
Administratrix of the Estate of Redmond, from decision and
order entered 27 April 2015 by the North Carolina Industrial
Commission N.C. Industrial Commission, I.C. No. U00438.
by Claimant-Appellant Smith from decision and order entered 7
May 2015 by the North Carolina Industrial Commission N.C.
Industrial Commission, No. U00750.
and remanded by the Supreme Court of North Carolina to the
Court of Appeals for consideration of the merits of
Claimants' constitutional challenge to N.C. Gen. Stat.
Pressly, Thomas & Conley, PA, by Edwin A. Pressly; and
UNC Center for Civil Rights, by Elizabeth McLaughlin Haddix,
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General
Marc X. Sneed, for North Carolina Department of Justice, Tort
Facts and Procedural History
General Assembly enacted the Eugenics Asexualization and
Sterilization Compensation Program ("the Compensation
Program"), N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.50 et
seq., in 2013, in order to provide compensation to
victims of the North Carolina Eugenics laws. 2013 N.C. Sess.
Laws 360, s. 6.18(a). Ms. Hughes ("Hughes"), Ms.
Redmond ("Redmond"), and Mr. Smith
("Smith") (Hughes, Redmond, and Smith together,
"the Victims") were all "sterilized
involuntarily under the authority of the Eugenics Board of
North Carolina ['Eugenics Board'] in accordance with
Chapter 224 of the Public Laws of 1933 or Chapter 221 of the
Public Laws of 1937." N.C. Gen. Stat. §
143B-426.50(5) (2013). Hughes died in 1996, Redmond died in 2010,
and Smith died in 2006.
the North Carolina Industrial Commission ("Industrial
Commission") concluded that the Victims were
"asexualized involuntarily or sterilized involuntarily
under the authority of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina
in accordance with Chapter 224 of the Public Laws of 1933 or
Chapter 221 of the Public Laws of 1937[, ]" they were
all "qualified recipients" pursuant to the
Compensation Program. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.50(5)
(2013). However, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.50(1)
limited which qualified recipients could become successful
claimants as follows: "Claimant. - An individual on
whose behalf a claim is made for compensation as a qualified
recipient under this Part. An individual must be alive on
June 30, 2013, in order to be a claimant." N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.50(1) (emphasis added). Therefore,
pursuant to the plain language of N.C. Gen. Stat. §
143B-426.50(1), the Victims, all of whom died before 2013,
are not considered "claimants" for the purposes of
the Compensation Program. The Compensation Program states
that only "[a] claimant determined to be a
qualified recipient under this Part shall receive
compensation[.]" N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.51(a)
(2013) (emphasis added).
estates of Hughes, Redmond, and Smith ("the
Estates") filed claims pursuant to the Compensation
Program. However, because the Victims all died before 30 June
2013, they were determined not to meet the definition of
"claimant" under the Compensation Program, and the
Estates' claims were denied. The Estates appealed the
initial denial of their claims, and their claims were heard
by deputy commissioners. Following denials by the deputy
commissioners, the Estates filed appeals to the Full
Commission. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.53 (2013).
Following denial of their claims by the Full Commission, the
Estates filed notices of appeal with this Court, arguing that
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.50(1) was unconstitutional on
its face because it arbitrarily denied compensation to the
heirs of some victims while allowing compensation to others.
This matter was heard originally in the Court of Appeals 16
November 2015, and this Court filed opinions on 16 February
2016, with one judge dissenting, in which we held that this
Court lacked jurisdiction to address the Estates' facial
constitutional challenge to N.C. Gen. Stat. §
143B-426.50(1). In re Hughes, __ N.C. App. __, 785
S.E.2d 111 (2016); In re Redmond, __ N.C. App. __,
785 S.E.2d 111 (2016); In re Smith, __ N.C. App. __,
785 S.E.2d 111 (2016).
review, our Supreme Court reversed and remanded to this Court
for consideration of the merits of Claimants'
constitutional challenge to subsection 143B-426.50(1). In
re Hughes, __ N.C. __, 796 S.E.2d 784 (2017); In re
Smith, __ N.C. __, 797 S.E.2d 264, (2017); In re
Redmond, __ N.C. __, 797 S.E.2d 275 (2017). We now
address the merits of the Estates' facial constitutional
challenge to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 143B-426.50(1).
appeal, the Estates argue that N.C. Gen. Stat. §
143B-426.50(1) violates the North Carolina and the United
States constitutions by violating their rights to equal
protection under the law. We cannot agree.
History of the Compensation Program
Carolina's eugenics program was unlike most in the
nation, sterilizing approximately 7, 600 people over 45
years." Rep. Paul Stam and Amy O'Neal,
Eugenics in North Carolina, 3 (2016), at
In light of the history of eugenics in North Carolina,
North Carolina leaders realized that, through its Eugenics
Board, the State invaded the lives and bodies of thousands of
its citizens and forcibly took away their ability to choose
whether to have children. Commissions and task forces debated
whether to compensate the victims. Many in the General
Assembly, including Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and
House Majority Leader Paul Stam, hoped to accomplish this
through the Eugenics Compensation Program (HB 947) during the
2012 Short Session. They wished "to make restitution for
injustices suffered and unreasonable hardships endured by the
asexualization or sterilizations of individuals at the
direction of the State between 1933 and 1974." The bill
would have offered $50, 000 in compensation to those who were
sterilized under the N.C. Eugenics Board, but not to the
families of victims who died before May 16, 2012. While HB
947 passed the House by a vote of 86 to 31 and funds were
appropriated in the budgets of the House and Governor, the
bill never made it to the Senate floor.
Id. at 4. One of the task forces mentioned above was
created by executive order on 8 March 2011: "The
Governor's Task Force [Task Force'] to Determine the
Method of Compensation for Victims of North Carolina's
Eugenics Board[.]" N.C. Executive Order No. 83 (2011).
In this executive order, the Governor recognized that the
General Assembly had already "established panels to
explore and make recommendations for compensating and
counseling persons who were sterilized under the . . .
Eugenics Board program[, ]" and that "it is now
appropriate to identify persons who were sterilized by force
or coercion and to explore and determine the possible methods
and forms of compensation to those persons."
Id. The first duty assigned to the Task Force was to
"[r]ecommend possible methods or forms of compensation
to those persons forcibly sterilized under the . . .
Eugenics Board program." Id. (emphasis added).
The Task Force submitted its "Final Report" to the
Governor on 27 January 2012. The Governor's Task Force to
Determine the Method of Compensation for Victims of North
Carolina's Eugenics Board, Final Report to the
Governor of the State of North Carolina (2012), at
In its "Letter of Transmittal" of the "Final
Report, " the Task Force set forth its reasoning as
Compensation for these survivors serves two purposes. No
amount of money can adequately pay for the harm done to these
citizens, but financial compensation and other services we
recommend will nonetheless provide meaningful assistance.
Compensation also serves a larger purpose for all of us who
live in North Carolina and rely on a government that respects
our rights and leaves us free to live the lives we choose.
The compensation package we recommend sends a clear message
that we in North Carolina are a people who pay for our
mistakes and that we do not tolerate bureaucracies that
trample on basic human rights.
. . . .
We also want to clarify our thinking on whether compensation
should cover the estates of all victims or be limited to
living victims. We know that children of eugenics victims
suffer from the hardships their parents endured, but we
believe, nonetheless, that financial compensation should go
only to living victims. Those who were sterilized suffered
direct harm by the state and we would like the state to pay
them for that pain.
Id. at 1-2.
conclusion of the Final Report, the Task Force acknowledged
certain limitations and injustices that were a necessary
byproduct of achieving a workable solution to the
In an effort to balance the need to compensate victims for
the pain and hardships that they endured and the need to pass
an overdue compensation plan this year, the Task Force made a
difficult choice to limit compensation to living victims as
defined in our recommendations.....
The Task Force recognizes that some of the descendants of
deceased victims have expressed great frustration that the
state could exclude them from a final compensation plan. The
Task Force members hope that the descendants will recognize
the difficult task faced in developing these recommendations.
The final recommendation prioritized a need to provide
justice before time runs out to the remaining 1, 500 to 2,
000 victims who endured the direct, frontline pain and
humiliation of this program.
Id. at 13. The Task Force defined "living
victims, " and stated that once living victims had been
properly verified, they should receive a vested interest in