This week, in part one of a two-part series, NC Family president John Rustin talks with Representative Paul “Skip” Stam, who represents the southern portion of Wake County in the N.C. House, about his career as a pro-life attorney and his work in the General Assembly.
INTRODUCTION: Representative Paul Stam is an attorney based in Apex, North Carolina, who is currently serving his eighth term in the North Carolina House of Representatives, representing the southern portion of Wake County, including Apex, Holly Springs, Fuquay Varina, Willow Spring, and other communities.
Over the years, Representative Stam has held a variety of leadership positions in the State House, most recently as Speaker Pro Tempore, but he recently announced that he will not seek re-election to the House in 2016. He has been a stalwart defender of the unborn, Biblical marriage, parental rights, choice in education, and responsible government, just to name a few.
On a personal note, it has been my great privilege and honor to work with Representative Stam for years, and I can personally testify that he is one of the most intelligent, compassionate, and well-respected members to serve in the North Carolina House in the past several decades. And it is not only those who agree with him on policy issues who share this sentiment, but also those who often do not agree with him, because he is a true gentlemen and a great example of a humble public servant.
We’re thrilled to have Rep. Stam on “Family Policy Matters” to talk about his career as an attorney, his time in the North Carolina General Assembly, and what’s next following the conclusion of the 2016 legislative session.
JOHN RUSTIN: Before we talk about your time in the General Assembly, I wonder if you would share with us a little bit about your background. I know you’ve been in Apex for close to 40 years, but where did you grow up and what brought you to North Carolina?
REP. PAUL STAM: Until I was 17, I followed the textile industry—born in Princeton New Jersey, lived in Danville Virginia, Greensboro, Northern New Jersey, but what brought me to North Carolina was the Marine Corps, Camp LeJeune.
JOHN RUSTIN: Tell us a little bit about your family Representative Stam. How long have you been married to your wonderful wife Dottie, and talk about your children and your grandchildren?
REP. PAUL STAM: We’ve been married 42 years, and lived here in Apex almost all that time. We have two grown children and their families, including eight grandchildren. They all live around Apex, get to see them all the time.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s wonderful. I know family is extremely important to you, and I have seen you out and about town with your grandchildren, and I know you are extremely proud of both your children and your grandchildren.
REP. PAUL STAM: My children and my two oldest grandchildren have been participants in quite a few of our public policy matters. My daughter even lobbied a little bit for the parental consent bill a long time ago. I paid her $50 to lobby on a Monday night one time, and she got two senate votes for it.
JOHN RUSTIN: That was quite a good investment.
REP. PAUL STAM: Right, when she was 16.
JOHN RUSTIN: Representative Stam, you’ve been involved in the pro-life movement for many years, serving as legal counsel for North Carolina Right to Life, and you have been directly involved in a number of key lawsuits on life-related issues. I want to talk about a few of those cases in just a minute, but first, I wonder if you’d tell our listeners what really sparked your interest in the law and also in working so hard, as you have, to defend the sanctity of human life?
REP. PAUL STAM: It’s interesting, when I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, it really was not much of an issue that anybody talked about very much. But I remember two things before Roe v. Wade. First that one of my favorite books growing up was a Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who about how “a person’s a person no matter how small.” Then, after the military, I was in college, and one semester I was taking three courses at the same time, Logic, Biology (human anatomy), and Pre-Law. And in Pre-Law, we were discussing the American Bar Association’s proposals on abortion, and I noticed how completely illogical and unscientific they were, and I wrote some letters to the editor at my college, Michigan State, on that subject. So, it was an academic curiosity; it was not a personal involvement with any particular situation. The pro-choice argument just does not add up if you know any logic or any biology.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s interesting—and what drew you into the law because you have been an active attorney for years and have really made a name for yourself in the legal arena, not only as a legislator.
REP. PAUL STAM: My grandfather was a lawyer for about 50 years, and he was probably the greatest influence there. He represented many missions’ organizations and was actually the attorney for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for quite a while. And he showed me the joys of a small private practice, and all the things you can do as part of that practice.
JOHN RUSTIN: And I know you do a wide variety of different types of law in your practice, and you concentrate a good deal on real estate law, other areas of business law, but clearly you’ve been involved in a wide variety of different areas of the law throughout your years of legal practice.
REP. PAUL STAM: Mostly real estate, but in small town practice you do a lot of things.
JOHN RUSTIN: No doubt about it. Now, I want to ask you specifically about some of those life-related cases that you’ve worked on over the years. I know in the 1980s you represented a group of pro-life citizens who were protesting abortion clinics around Jacksonville, North Carolina. Tell us about that work, and how you got involved with that.
REP. PAUL STAM: It took about 10 years, not any one case but a series of cases. There was a group of about six protesters, who were sued by Tackey Crist, who is the volume abortionist in Jacksonville, and has been doing it for 40 years, about 2,000 abortions a year. And they had their usual protest signs, and he took quite a bit of umbrage to the fact that they referred to children and killing, and things like that. So he sued them. And in the 10 years, they were never enjoined by a judge from anything they did, and when [the abortion groups] would bring criminal charges occasionally, no criminal charge ever stuck. That’s how I got involved in it. We were taking the deposition of Dr. Takey Crist, and he also fancied himself as a normal OBGYN as well. [In other words] he did not think of himself as always an abortion clinic even though he’s done probably more than anybody in the state. So, he had a fertility practice as well. He published a half-page advertisement in the Raleigh News and Observer that went all over eastern North Carolina for his fertility practice. And he had a picture of an ultrasound with about an eight week-old embryo, unborn child, and the title of this advertisement is, “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson meet their son for the first time.” So, I asked him how he could be so offended by these protestors, talking about children and killings, if in his own advertisement for which he’d paid thousands of dollars, he was talking about the same thing as being sons. And his answer was this, he said, “I never really liked that ad. The ladies in my clinic put it together, but I didn’t like it.” He was under oath at that time.
JOHN RUSTIN: Well that really does defy logic…
Now, Representative Stam, you have represented North Carolina Right to Life in several key cases over the years. I know there are a variety of cases there, but tell us briefly about some of those cases, your role in those lawsuits, and why the outcome of these cases was particularly important to the status of pro-life policies in North Carolina?
REP. PAUL STAM: There were three types of cases, and I’ll address them individually. One, there was a series of cases on “Free Speech,” that is the ability of North Carolina Right to Life and other similar groups to get their message out when for a period of about 10 years the Left was always trying to put campaign finance restrictions, so you couldn’t say certain things as an organization. So that was one series that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and we pretty much won that one. A second one involved abortion funding, and this involved more than one case, but we started in 1978, trying to stop North Carolina from being the only state in the South that had a State Abortion Fund when the federal government had cut off Medicaid abortions. And it took almost 17 years for North Carolina to stop doing that as a statutory matter, but we did win one small victory in that case and that was, even though we couldn’t stop the state from doing it legally, we were able to stop the counties. So that 17 years later, when the State stopped doing it, we already had in place the legal precedent that the counties couldn’t take up the slack that the State had done, and we also did a Friend of the Court Brief in the Supreme Court to uphold that decision on stopping state funding. Then, we also worked for another 17-18 years on parental consent, and that bill took 17 years to get passed, but then the abortion clinics filed suit in federal court to try to throw it out, and we did Friends of The Court Briefs to keep it in, and we actually were able to win that case, along with the Attorney General. And that, in my opinion, reduced abortions by about 2,000 per year. More recently we’ve had a lot of legislation pass that’s reducing it even more, and most of that has not involved litigation, although there’s been some litigation.
JOHN RUSTIN: You’ve been very involved in that [pro-life] legislation and those efforts, and we’re very grateful for that. Now, you’ve also been involved in education related cases, and I want to ask you about a lawsuit that was important to North Carolina’s home school community, Delconte v. North Carolina. Tell us about that case, and what the N.C. Supreme Court ultimately decided?
REP. PAUL STAM: Right, well, my role was local counsel for one of the Friend of the Court Briefs, I believe it was for Rutherford Institute, and we also collaborated on a Friend of the Court Brief by the Christian Legal Society. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jim Hunt, the Governor, tried to get control over private schools through various mechanisms and litigation. And some people didn’t like that, the Delcontes were from New York, I believe, and had come down here and were teaching their kids at home. And we were able to convince the state Supreme Court that our statutes allowed that, and four or five years after that, in the late 80s, it was codified in statute about what homeschooling was and how it could be regulated. It’s not regulated as to content or credentials of teachers, or many things, but it is regulated as to health, safety, they have to give nationally-norm tests once a year that’s open to inspection by the governor’s office. There have been a few other changes over the years, but the end result has been that North Carolina is considered as one of the most favorable states for homeschooling, and we have about 110,000 homeschooled students now in North Carolina, out of you know one and a half million total students.
JOHN RUSTIN: That’s great and I know that that the home school community is very tight-knit, very active, and when issues come up related to homeschooling they show up at the legislature, and that’s a great thing.
REP. PAUL STAM: They are very active, and they helped us get a bill passed about four years ago that provided scholarships for children with special needs who wanted to get their instruction at home but also needed money for therapy or medical expenses, things like that, and that program has been a great success.
JOHN RUSTIN: It sure has. Unfortunately, Rep. Stam, we are just about out of time for this week, but we are going to continue our discussion with you next week on Family Policy Matters.
Before we go, I just want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your story with us on Family Policy Matters. And we look forward to talking with you more next week about your work in the North Carolina General Assembly, and what’s next for you after you retire later this year.
– END –