Justia North Carolina Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights to her son, holding that the trial court's findings of fact and the evidence supported the conclusion that Mother willfully abandoned her son within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(7).Specifically, the Supreme Court held that because the evidence and the court's findings showed that Mother undertook no action to express love, affection, and parental concern for the child during the relevant six-month period, the trial court did not err in determining that grounds existed under section 7B-1111(a)(7) to terminate Mother's parental rights. View "In re L.M.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction, holding that the rationale underlying State v. Harbison, 337 S.E.2d 504 (N.C. 1985) applies equally when defense counsel impliedly - rather than expressly - admits the defendant's guilt to a charged offense. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of assault on a female. The trial court entered judgment on one count of habitual misdemeanor assault and sentenced Defendant to a term of fifteen to twenty-seven months' imprisonment. Defendant appealed, arguing that his defense counsel improperly conceded his guilt to the assault on a female charge during closing arguments. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant was not denied his right to effective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that defense counsel impliedly conceded Defendant's guilty on the offense of assault on a female. The Court remanded the case for a hearing for the purpose of determining whether Defendant knowingly consented in advance to his attorney's admission of guilt. View "State v. McAllister" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights on the grounds of willful abandonment, holding that Petitioners failed to prove by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that Father willfully abandoned his child.The trial court entered an order terminating Father's parental rights on grounds of neglect, failure to make reasonable progress, and willful abandonment. The court of appeals affirmed the termination order on the willful abandonment ground. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioners failed to prove by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that Father willfully abandoned his child; and (2) Petitioners failed to prove that any other ground existed to terminate Father's parental rights. View "In re E.B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights to her minor child, holding that the issues identified by counsel in Mother's brief were without merit.The trial court terminated Mother's parental rights to her child, concluding that grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1), (2), and (6) and that it was in the child's best interests that Mother's parental rights be terminated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the order of the trial court was supported by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence and was based on proper legal grounds. View "In re Z.K." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing a superior court order, holding that Defendant failed to meet the required condition of N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-269(a) that postconviction DNA testing of certain biological evidence was material to his defense, and Defendant further failed to satisfy his lesser burden to show under section 15A-269(c) that DNA testing may be material to his claim of wrongful conviction.Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree burglary. Defendant later filed a pro se motion for postconviction DNA testing pursuant to section 15A-269. The superior court denied the motion on the grounds that the evidence of his guilt was overwhelming and that Defendant failed to show how conducting additional DNA testing was material to his defense. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of an order appointing counsel to assist Defendant in which Defendant would attempt to establish the level of materiality required to obtain DNA testing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant did not satisfy the necessary conditions to obtain the appointment of counsel under section 15A-269(c). View "State v. Byers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that Defendant received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, holding that Defendant failed to prove that his appellate counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon and being a habitual felon. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant subsequently filed a motion for appropriate relief alleging ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Specifically, Defendant asserted that appellate counsel's failure to cite State v. Pakulski, 356 S.E.2d 319 (N.C. 1987), amounted to ineffective assistance. After a successful appeal and remand, the trial court granted the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant's appellate counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to make arguments under Pakulski. The Supreme Court reversed, holding the precedent established in Pakulski did not govern the instant case and that appellate counsel's failure to rely on Pakulski was objectively reasonable. View "State v. Collington" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that it was in the child's best interest to terminate Mother's parental rights.After a hearing, the trial court entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights, concluding that three grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights and that termination of her parental rights was in the child's best interests. Mother appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that terminating Mother's rights was in the child's best interest. The Supreme Court agreed, holding termination of Mother's rights was in the child's best interest. View "In re S.J.B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals holding that Plaintiff failed properly to plead administrative negligence under N.C. Gen. Stat. 90-21.11(2)(b), holding that the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on pain and suffering damages.Plaintiff failed a complaint for medical negligence against Defendant, and the case proceeded to trial. At the close of Plaintiff's evidence, Defendant moved for a directed verdict. The trial court denied the motion. The jury returned verdicts finding that the decedent's death was caused by Defendant's negligence and negligent performance of administrative duties. The court of appeals reversed in part, vacated in part, and granting a new trial in part, holding (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's award for pain and suffering, and (2) Plaintiff did not sufficiently plead administrative negligence. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court properly denied Defendant's motion for a directed verdict on pain and suffering damages; (2) Plaintiff was not required to plead a claim for administrative negligence separate from medical negligence; (3) Defendant was not entitled to a new trial; and (4) the trial court did not err by granting Plaintiff's motion for a directed verdict on contributory negligence. View "Estate of Savino v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the trial court dismissing Defendant's motion for appropriate relief (MAR) in which Defendant asserted claims under the Racial Justice Act (RJA), holding that the retroactive application of the 2012 amended RJA and the 2013 repeal of the RJA violates the constitutional prohibitions against ex post facto laws.The trial court dismissed Defendant's MAR, concluding that it was voided by the repeal of the RJA. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's order and remanded the case for the reinstatement of Defendant's sentence of life imprisonment without parole, holding (1) the retroactivity provision of the RJA repeal violated the double jeopardy protections of the North Carolina Constitution; (2) the judgment sentencing Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was a final judgment, and therefore, double jeopardy barred further review; and (3) the retroactive application of the RJA repeal violates the prohibitions against ex post facto laws contained in the state and federal constitutions. View "State v. Augustine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals remanding this case for a new trial on an assault charge and vacating the judgment convicting Defendant of first-degree murder and remanding for entry of judgment convicting Defendant of second-degree murder, holding that Defendant was prejudiced by the trial court's failure to give his proffered jury instructions and that the proper remedy for this prejudicial error was to remand the case for a new trial on all charges.Defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder based on the felony murder rule with an assault charge as the underlying felony. The court of appeals determined that the trial court committed prejudicial error by not instructing the jury on self-defense with regard to the assault charge and granted a new trial on the assault charge. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the failure to give the proposed instructions prejudiced Defendant and that Defendant should receive a new trial on all charges. View "State v. Greenfield" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law