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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the Court of Appeals ruling that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to decide whether its previous order was being violated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on the grounds that Petitioner failed to exhaust administrative remedies before moving to enforce the court’s order, holding that the superior court had jurisdiction to enforce its previous order. On March 17, 2016, the superior court reversed a final decision of the DHHS regarding Petitioner’s eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking entry of an order enforcing the March 17, 2016 order and directing the DHHS to immediately reinstate his Medicaid benefits. The superior court dismissed the petition, concluding that the DHHS had not violated the previous order. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision, holding that the trial court had jurisdiction over Petitioner’s petition. View "Pachas v. N.C. Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals that the clear and convincing evidence and the trial court’s findings of fact supported the trial court’s conclusion of law that J.A.M. was neglected, holding that the trial court’s adjudication was based on findings of fact that were supported by competent evidence. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court’s findings of fact included present risk factors in addition to an evaluation of past adjudications involving other children, which indicated that the present circumstances of J.A.M.’s living environment placed her at a substantial risk of harm; and (2) the court of appeals properly applied the appropriate standard of review in affirming the trial court’s order. View "In re J.A.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the order of the superior court reversing the decision of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which declined to award certain attorney’s fees to Plaintiff’s attorneys, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-90(c) authorizes the superior court to consider additional evidence and exercise its discretion in reviewing the reasonableness or setting the amount of attorney’s fees. In reversing the Commission, the superior court ordered attorney’s fees to be paid to Plaintiff’s attorneys from the reimbursement for retroactive attendant care medical compensation that the Commission had awarded to Plaintiff. The court of appeals vacated the order, holding that the superior court exceeded the scope of its statutory authority to review the reasonableness of a Commission’s fee award under section 97-90(c) by taking and considering new evidence that was not presented before the Commission. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals’ decision was inconsistent with section 97-90(c) and that the superior court had jurisdiction to take and consider additional evidence not previously considered by the Commission. View "Saunders v. ADP TotalSource Fi Xi, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals vacating Defendant’s conviction for felony littering upon concluding that the indictment failed to allege an essential element of the statutory crime and was fatally defective, holding that the indictment was facially invalid. In concluding that the indictment was fatally defect, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Defendant, and therefore, the conviction must be vacated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-399(a)(1), which requires that the accused be an unauthorized person depositing refuse on land not designated by the State for such a use, is an essential element of the crime of felony littering rather than an affirmative defense. View "State v. Rankin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals concluding that Defendant’s inculpatory statements to law enforcement should have been suppressed but that the error was harmless, holding that the trial court correctly concluded that, under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant’s inculpatory statements were voluntary. On appeal, the Court of Appeals determined that Defendant’s inculpatory statements were involuntary and inadmissible because they were given under the influence of fear or hope caused by the interrogating officers’ statements and actions but that the admission of the statements was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt due to the overwhelming additional evidence of Defendant’s guilt. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding (1) the trial court erred in merging the Miranda and voluntariness inquiries; (2) Defendant did not preserve his argument that officers employed the “question first, warn later” technique to obtain Defendant’s confession; and (3) the trial court correctly concluded that the Miranda requirements were met and that Defendant’s statements to the officers were voluntarily made. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing and vacating Defendant’s conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm and reversing the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of the firearm, holding that both the search and seizure of Defendant in this case were supported by individualized suspicion and thus did not violate the Fourth Amendment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the search was invalid because it was not supported by reasonable suspicion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the rule announced in Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), justified the seizure because Defendant posed a real threat to the safe and efficient completion of the search; and (2) the warrantless detention and search of Defendant did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "State v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of the superior court determining that the appointments process in N.C. Gen. Stat. 143B-9(a) does not violate the Constitution, holding that senatorial confirmation of the members of the Governor of North Carolina’s Cabinet does not violate the separation of powers clause when, as in this case, the Governor retains the power to nominate the members, has strong supervisory authority over them, and has the power to removal them at will. Plaintiff, the Governor of North Carolina, brought this action challenging the appointments provision of subsection 143B-9(a), which grants the North Carolina Senate the power to confirm the people that he nominates to serve in his Cabinet. The Supreme Court held that subsection 143B-9(a)’s senatorial confirmation requirement does not violate the separation of powers clause because it leaves the Governor with enough control to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. View "Cooper v. Berger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the superior court’s order dismissing this complaint under N.C. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that the State, and not a board of county commissioners, is solely responsible for preserving the right of every child in North Carolina to receive a sound basic education pursuant to the North Carolina Constitution. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant’s continued support and maintenance of a tripartite school district system and its refusal to manage and distribute resources efficiently among the school districts resulted in Defendant’s failure to provide the students of Halifax County an opportunity to receive a sound basic education. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, concluding that a board of county commissioners is absolved of any constitutional duty to provide its students the opportunity to receive a sound basic education. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, along with the State, a board of county commissioners is not required to provide the opportunity for North Carolina children to receive a sound basic education. View "Silver v. Halifax County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals in this medical malpractice suit remanding the case for a new trial on the issue of damages, holding that the trial court did not err in setting aside the jury’s verdict on the ground that the jury awarded insufficient damages to Plaintiff. In the complaint Plaintiff alleged that Defendant-doctor performed unnecessary surgeries on his now-deceased wife. The jury found Defendant liable for negligence and that Plaintiff’s wife had suffered damages in the amount of $512,162 but that her damages should be reduced by $152,161 because of her unreasonable failure to minimize her damages. The trial court entered judgment in the amount of $1. The trial court subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the judgment and entered an amended judgment awarding damages in the amount of $512,162. The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision to set aside the jury verdict but concluded that the trial court erred by entering an amended judgment rather than ordering a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the trial court’s decision to set aside the jury’s verdict was not an abuse of discretion; and (2) the Court of Appeals did not err in affirming the trial court’s assessment of $175,547 in costs against Defendants. View "Justus v. Rosner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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In this contract interpretation case, the Supreme Court reversed the portion of the court of appeals decision ruling that a critical paragraph in a commercial real estate lease was ambiguous and that, as a result, interpretation of the contract was a matter for a jury to resolve, holding that the pertinent provisions of the lease served as a complete bar to Plaintiff lessees’ negligence-based claims against Defendants, one of which was the lessor. At issue was the operation of the lease provisions regarding insurance and liability when the lessees sought damages allegedly caused by the lessor’s negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, concluding that the pertinent lease provision was not ambiguous and was a complete defense to the claims raised in the complaint. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the provision was ambiguous in that it did not clearly reflect the intent of the parties to bar negligence claims against each other. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the language of the lease arrangements reflected the clear intent of the parties to discharge each other from all claims and liabilities for damages resulting from hazards covered by insurance; and (2) the damages claims by the lessees resulted from a hazard that was subject to their insurance coverage. View "Morrell v. Hardin Creek, Inc." on Justia Law