Justia North Carolina Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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In this case concerning borrowers’ invocation of North Carolina’s anti-deficiency statute, the Supreme Court held that Defendants failed to forecast substantial competent evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding the “true value” of the foreclosed property at issue under N.C. Gen. Stat.45-21.36. Defendants asserted the protection of the anti-deficiency statute after a Bank foreclosed the property by nonjudicial power of sale under a deed of trust, purchased the property, and then filed this action to collect the deficiency. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Bank. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, ruling that merely reciting the statutory language or asserting an unsubstantiated opinion regarding a foreclosed property’s value is insufficient under N.C. R. Civ. P. 56. View "United Community Bank (Georgia) v. Wolfe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court ordered that David Q. LaBarre, an Emergency Judge of the General Court of Justice, be censured for violations of Canons 1 and 2A of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat*. 7A-376(b). After careful review, the Court accepted and adopted the findings and conclusions of the Judicial Standards Commission. The censure stemmed from Judge LaBarre’s act of driving while substantially impaired and engaging in belligerent and offensive behavior towards law enforcement officers and emergency personnel. View "Inquiry Concerning a Judge, No. 15-222" on Justia Law
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In 2013, the General Assembly established the Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program to provide compensation to any claimant who was asexualized or sterilized involuntarily under the authority of the now-dismantled Eugenics Board of North Carolina. The claimant in this case was sterilized involuntarily in 1956 and died in 2010. Claimant’s estate (Claimant) filed a claim pursuant to the Compensation Program to the North Carolina Industrial Commission. The Commission denied the claim because Claimant was not alive on June 30, 2013, as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 143B-426.50(1). Claimant appealed to the full Commission, raising a constitutional challenge to subsection 143B-426.50(1). The full Commission denied the claim but certified the constitutional question to the Court of Appeals. Claimant then appealed. The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the appeal because any challenge to the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly must first be submitted to a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Wake County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Claimant’s appeal based on a constitutional challenge was properly before the Court of Appeals, which had appellate jurisdiction over the appeal. Remanded. View "In re Redmond" on Justia Law

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Robert King signed an arbitration agreement at the time of his initial appointment with Dr. Michael Bryant, who was to perform a bilateral inguinal hernia repair on King. In the course of the surgery, Bryant injured King’s distal abdominal aorta, resulting in complications. King and his wife, Jo Ann O’Neal (together, Plaintiffs) filed a complaint against Bryant and Village Surgical Associations, P.A. (collectively, Defendants). Defendants filed a motion to stay and enforce the arbitration agreement. The trial court denied Defendants’ motion to enforce the arbitration agreement, concluding that the agreement was too indefinite to be enforced. The court of appeals reversed. On remand, the trial court again declined to enforce the arbitration agreement, concluding that it was the product of constructive fraud and was unconscionable and, therefore, was unenforceable. The court of appeals affirmed on unconscionability grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable on breach of fiduciary duty, as opposed to unconscionability, grounds. View "King v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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In 2013, legislation was enacted requiring the City of Asheville to involuntarily transfer the assets it uses to operate a public water system to a newly-created metropolitan water and sewerage district. The City filed a complaint and motion seeking injunctive relief, alleging that the involuntary transfer provisions of the legislation were unconstitutional. The trial court concluded that the involuntary transfer violated various provisions of the North Carolina Constitution and permanently enjoined the State from enforcing the legislation. The court of appeals reversed, in part, the trial court’s order and remanded to the trial court for the entry of summary judgment in favor of the State. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the challenged legislation constitutes a prohibited local act relating to health and sanitation in violation of Article II, Section 24(1)(a) of the North Carolina Constitution. View "City of Asheville v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with six offenses pertaining to the manufacture, possession and sale or delivery of illegal drugs. Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence seized during the search of her home, asserting that the warrant obtained to conduct the search was not supported by probable cause. The trial court granted the motion to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances, the magistrate in this case had a substantial basis to find that probable cause existed to issue the challenged search warrant to search Defendant’s home. View "State v. Allman" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Defendant was indicted for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a weapon of mass destruction, and attaining habitual felon status. The indictment listed the underlying felony as attempted assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, with Defendant having pled guilty in 2005. The 2005 conviction was also listed as one supporting a finding of habitual felon status. The jury found Defendant guilty of the charges. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding (1) attempted assault is not a recognized criminal offense in North Carolina, and therefore, Defendant’s 2005 conviction could not support the convictions for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and attaining habitual felon status; and (2) the trial court failed to identify and properly address an impasse that arose between Defendant and his counsel, and therefore, Defendant was entitled to a new trial on the possession of a weapon of mass destruction charge. The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the Court of Appeals incorrectly held that Defendant’s 2005 conviction could not support the convictions of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and attaining habitual felon status; and (2) it cannot be determined whether an absolute impasse existed in this case. Remanded. View "State v. Floyd" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon and first-degree murder. The trial judge sentenced Defendant to a term of life imprisonment without parole for his murder conviction. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant later filed a motion for appropriate relief requesting that his life without parole sentence must be vacated and a constitutionally permissible sentence be imposed upon him instead. In support of his motion, Defendant relied upon Miller v. Alabama. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion on the basis that Miller did not apply retroactively to Defendant’s case. The case was certified for review. The Supreme Court ordered supplemental briefing for the purpose of allowing the parties to address the effect of the decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana. As the State conceded in its supplemental brief, the State’s non-retroactivity argument does not survive Montgomery. Therefore, Defendant was entitled to be resentenced, and the trial court’s order denying Defendant’s motion for appropriate relief is reversed. Remanded. View "State v. Perry" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Standards Commission (JSC) imposed a public reprimand on Judge Jerry R. Tillett (Defendant), a judge in Judicial District One of the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, for misconduct while in public office. Defendant accepted the reprimand, and the JSC’s official filing constituted the Commission’s final action on the matter. Two years after Defendant accepted the reprimand, the State Bar commenced a disciplinary action against Defendant by filing a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The DHC denied the motion to dismiss, arguing that the DHC infringes upon the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction by initiating attorney disciplinary proceedings against a sitting member of the General Court of Justice for conduct while in office. The Supreme Court reversed the DHC’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, holding that the DHC lacks the authority to investigate and discipline Defendant for his conduct while in office. View "North Carolina State Bar v. Tillett" on Justia Law

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CommScope Credit Union (Plaintiff), a state-chartered credit union, hired Butler & Burke, LLP (Defendant), a certified public accounting firm, to conduct annual independent audits of its financial statements. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and professional malpractice. Defendant pleaded seven affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence and in pari delicto. The trial court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the specific allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint were sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and (2) Defendant’s affirmative defenses would not entitle Defendant to dismissal at this stage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s allegations did not establish that Defendant owed it a fiduciary duty in fact, and therefore, the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the members of the Court are equally divided on whether the facts alleged in the complaint established the defenses of contributory negligence and in pari delicto, and therefore, the court of appeals’ decision on this issue is left undisturbed. View "CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP" on Justia Law