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At issue was whether legislation amending portions of certain provisions of the North Carolina General Statutes, including Chapter 115C, violates N.C. Const. art. IX, 5. In 2016, the General Assembly enacted House Bill 17, which amended numerous provisions of Chapter 115C, eliminated certain aspects of the North Carolina State Board of Education’s (Board) oversight of a number of the powers and duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Superintendent), and assigned several powers and duties that had formerly belonged to the Board to the Superintendent. The Governor subsequently signed into law House Bill 17, which became Session Law 2016-126. The Board filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that certain provisions of Session Law 2016-126 are unconstitutional. A three-judge panel of the superior court concluded that statutory changes worked by Session Law 2016-126 did not contravene the relevant provisions of the North Carolina Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding the the enactment of Session Law 2016-126 does not, on its face, contravene N.C. Const. art. IX, 5. View "North Carolina State Board of Education v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for first-degree murder but vacated his sentence of death and remanded the case to the superior court for a new capital sentencing hearing. The Court held (1) there was no error in the trial court proceedings, including jury selection or the guilt phase, that led to Defendant’s conviction; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction; (3) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to set aside the jury’s verdict in favor of the State with respect to the issue of Defendant’s alleged intellectual disability; (4) the trial court erred by failing to submit the statutory mitigating circumstance enumerated in N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-2000(f)(6), which addresses the extent to which Defendant’s capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the law was impaired, to the jury at Defendant’s capital hearing. View "State v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The General Assembly lawfully delegated authority to the Rules Review Commission (Commission) to review and approve rules adopted by the State Board of Education (Board). The Board sought a declaratory ruling that the laws requiring the Board to submit its proposed rules and regulations to the statutorily created committee for review were unconstitutional. The trial court allowed summary judgment for the Board. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that N.C. Const. art. IX, 5 authorizes the General Assembly to statutorily delegate authority to the Commission to review and approve administrative rules that are proposed by the Board for codification. View "North Carolina State Board of Education v. State" on Justia Law

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The North Carolina Department of Revenue (Defendant) unconstitutionally taxed the income of The Kimberly Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust (Plaintiff) pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 105-160.2 based solely on the North Carolina residence of the beneficiaries during certain tax years because Plaintiff did not have sufficient minimum contacts with the State of North Carolina to satisfy the due process requirements of the state and federal Constitutions. Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendant wrongfully denied Plaintiff’s request for a refund because the taxes collected pursuant to section 105-160.2 violate the due process clause. The North Carolina Business Court concluded that the provision of section 105-160.2 allowing taxation of a trust income “that is for the benefit of a resident of this State” violated both the Due Process Clause and N.C. Const. art. I, 19, as applied to Plaintiff. The court therefore granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 105-160.2 is unconstitutional as applied to collect income taxes from Plaintiff for the tax years at issue; and (2) therefore, summary judgment was properly granted for Plaintiff. View "Kaestner 1992 Family Trust v. North Carolina Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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A police officer’s decision to briefly detain Defendant for questioning was supported by a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Defendant was indicted for robbery with a dangerous weapon. Defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained as a result of his seizure by the police officer, asserting that he had been unlawfully detained, in violation of his constitutional rights. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and Defendant was subsequently convicted of common law robbery. The court of appeals ordered a new trial, concluding that the trial court committed prejudicial error by denying Defendant’s suppression motion and that the police officer lacked reasonable suspicion to detain Defendant for questioning. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the undisputed facts established reasonable suspicion necessary to justify Defendant’s seizure. View "State v. Nicholson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals in vacating the judgments entered by the trial court based upon Defendant’s convictions for first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder on the grounds that certain evidence had been admitted in violation of the Confrontation Clause. The court of appeals concluded that the statements at issue were admitted in violation of Defendant’s constitutional right to confront the State’s witnesses against him. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court did not err by overruling Defendant’s confrontation-based objection and allowing the admission of the challenged evidence. View "State v. Miller" on Justia Law

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In determining that the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) erred in revoking a driver’s license for willful refusal to submit to a chemical analysis, the court of appeals overstepped its role by making witness credibility determinations and resolving contradictions in the evidence presented during the DMV’s administrative hearing concerning the license revocation. Petitioner filed a petition for judicial review challenging the hearing officer’s conclusion of law that Petitioner had willfully refused to submit to a chemical analysis. The superior court reversed. The court of appeals ruled that the superior court did not employ the correct standard of review and then, without remanding the matter, considered whether the evidence in the record supported the hearing officer’s conclusion of law rather than determining whether the uncontested findings of fact supported the hearing officer’s legal conclusion that Petitioner willfully refused a chemical analysis. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the superior court and court of appeals erred in reversing the administrative decision of the DMV hearing officer revoking Petitioner’s operator’s license because both courts employed an incorrect standard of review. View "Brackett v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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The absence of a procedural rule limits neither the court of appeals’ jurisdiction nor its discretionary authority to issue writs of certiorari. Defendant was charged with driving while impaired. After the trial court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss Defendant pleaded guilty to driving while impaired. Under the plea agreement, Defendant retained the right to appeal the denial of her motion to dismiss. Defendant then filed a notice of appeal and petitioned the court of appeals for review by writ of certiorari. The court of appeals denied Defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari and dismissed the appeal, holding that although it had jurisdiction to issue the writ, it lacked a procedural mechanism under Rule 21 of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure to do so without further exercising its discretion to invoke Rule 2 to suspend the Rules. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals had both the jurisdiction and the discretionary authority to issue Defendant’s writ of certiorari. View "State v. Ledbetter" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant’s Fourth Amendment claims were not reviewable on direct appeal, even for plain error, because Defendant completely waived them. A police officer found cocaine in Defendant’s coat pocket during a traffic stop. Defendant did not move in liming to suppress evidence of the cocaine, nor did Defendant object to the State’s use of the cocaine evidence at any point during his trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court plainly erred by admitting evidence of the cocaine and that the seizure of the cocaine violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment. The court of appeals ordered a new trial, concluding that the trial court committed plain error by admitting evidence of the cocaine. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant waived his Fourth Amendment claims by not moving to suppress evidence of the cocaine before or after trial. The Court remanded the case for consideration of Defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim because the court of appeals did not reach this claim. View "State v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for first-degree murder, sexual offense of a child by a adult offender, and other crimes and his sentence of death, holding that there was no error in Defendant’s trial or sentencing and that Defendant’s death sentence was not disproportionate to his crimes. Among other things, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant failed to meet his burden under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), of establishing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) Defendant failed to identify any error in the trial court’s evidentiary rulings; (3) the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying Defendant’s motions for a mistrial based upon an improper remark by the prosecutor during closing arguments; (4) there was no error in the jury instructions; (5) Defendant received a capital sentencing proceeding free of prejudicial error; and (6) the death sentence was not excessive or disproportionate. View "State v. McNeill" on Justia Law