Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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The record should be further developed in this case before a reviewing court can adequately address Defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Defendant was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon. The court of appeals affirmed. Defendant later filed a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise this claim on appeal. Without conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied Defendant’s MAR. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendant received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in his first appeal and that Defendant’s conviction would have been reversed had his counsel raised the sufficiency of the evidence issue in his first appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the record before the court was insufficient to determine whether Defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel. View "State v. Todd" 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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After his employment with Scenera Research LLC ended, Robert Morris (Plaintiff) sued Scenera and its CEO (collectively, Defendants), alleging Defendants owed him $210,000 in bonuses and that he was fired in retaliation for threatening to bring a lawsuit. Defendants filed a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment that Scenera owned all inventions Plaintiff developed during his employment and that Plaintiff was not entitled to bonuses for patent applications filed or patents issued after a certain date. The trial court court granted Defendants’ motion for a directed verdict with respect to the issue of patent ownership. The jury then awarded patent bonuses under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (WHA) and damages for violations of the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA). The trial court awarded attorneys’ fees and liquidated damages for patents that have already issued. The Court of Appeals largely affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the trial court properly submitted to the jury the issue of whether Plaintiff was entitled to issuance bonuses and properly denied Defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict; (2) calculability of wages under the WHA is a question of fact to be submitted to the jury; (3) Plaintiff was not entitled to liquidated damages based on the WHA or treble damages based on REDA; and (4) Plaintiff may pursue rescission. View "Morris v. Scenera Research LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff’s employment as a deputy sheriff was terminated following the reelection of Defendant to the office of Sheriff of Mecklenburg County. Plaintiff filed suit alleging wrongful termination in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 153A-99 and N.C. Const. art. I, 14 and 36. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiff could not establish a claim for wrongful termination in violation of section 153A-99 and that Plaintiff’s state constitutional claims lacked merit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff was not a county employee as defined in section 153A-99, and therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to the protections provided in that statute; and (2) Defendant’s actions did not violate Plaintiff’s right to freedom of speech. View "Young v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a registered sex offender, was found guilty of failure to provide timely written notice of his change of address. Defendant appealed, arguing that the indictment was fatally defective because it identified the date of offense as a five month span, and therefore, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear his case. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. Defendant appealed, arguing that his constitutional right to notice was violated because the indictment failed properly to allege the time period within which he was required to file his report to the appropriate sheriff when he changed his address. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s indictment was valid because it adequately apprised Defendant of the conduct that was the basis of the charge against him, and therefore, the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss. View "State v. Williams" on Justia Law

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An investigation that began with an anonymous complaint to police led to a search of Defendant’s home. The police applied for and received a warrant to search the apartment. When the warrant was executed, the officers discovered controlled substances, drug paraphernalia, and a firearm and ammunition. Defendant was arrested and indicted for drug trafficking, drug possession, and firearm charges. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized from his residence, arguing that the warrant was not supported by probable cause. The trial court denied the motion, and Defendant later pleaded guilty to several charges. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the search warrant was unsupported by probable cause. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the the totality of circumstances, the evidence described in the affidavit was sufficient to support the magistrate’s finding of probable cause to search Defendant’s apartment. View "State v. McKinney" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, two private corporations, sought a copy of the Automated Criminal/Infraction System database via the state’s Public Records Act (Act). The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) declined to produce an index of the ACIS database and declined to provide a copy of the ACIS. Plaintiffs filed suit seeking an order requiring production of the requested materials and seeking a declaration that the ACIS database is a public document or public information as defined in the Act. The trial court granted judgment for Defendants on their responsive pleadings and dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed as to the AOC, concluding that ACIS is a public record subject to disclosure under the Act and that the AOC was the custodian of the ACIS. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) N.C. Gen. Stat. 7A-109(d), addressing “remote electronic access” to court records, is a more specific statute that overrides applicability of the Act in this case; and (2) the legislature intended that remote electronic access to the ACIS be available solely through nonexclusive contracts, as provided in section 7A-109(d). Remanded. View "LexisNexis Risk Data Mgmt., Inc. v. N.C. Admin. Office of Courts" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of trafficking in cocaine by possession, trafficking in cocaine by transportation, and possession of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court committed plain error by failing to adequately instruct the jury that the State had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew that he had possessed and transported cocaine. The court of appeals reversed Defendant’s convictions and awarded him a new trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court did not err by failing to instruct the jury in accordance with footnote four to N.C.P.I. Crim. 260.17 and 260.30 because the trial court’s instructions here adequately addressed the issue that the jury had to decide to determine Defendant’s guilt or innocence. View "State v. Galaviz-Torres" on Justia Law

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A police officer stopped and searched Defendant outside a shop known for drug activity. Defendant was subsequently indicted for possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a firearm with an altered serial number, and conspiracy to posses with intent to sell or deliver marijuana. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the initial stop, arguing that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to conduct an investigatory stop of Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the unchallenged findings of fact made by the trial court sufficiently established that the officer possessed reasonable suspicion to conduct a brief investigatory stop of Defendant. View "State v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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The district court entered an ex parte Domestic Violence Order of Protection (DVPO) against Defendant under N.C. Gen. Stat. 50B-3. The court ordered Defendant in the DVPO to surrender his firearms and ammunition and further ordered that law enforcement officers shall search “Defendant’s person, vehicle and residence and seize any and all weapons found.” When officers served the DVPO on Defendant at his residence, they entered the house to execute the search for weapons. Once inside the home, officers found a marijuana growing operation. Defendant was subsequently charged with drug-related offenses. The superior court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence.The court of appeals reversed, holding (1) the relevant DVPO statutes do not authorize the district court to order a general search of Defendant’s person, vehicle, and residence for weapons; and (2) the ex parte DVPO was not a de facto search warrant. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding (1) section 50B-3(a)(13) does not authorize the district court to order a search of a defendant’s residence under a civil DVPO; and (2) because the search of Defendant’s home was conducted without a warrant or any articulable exception to the warrant requirement, it violated Defendant’s fundamental constitutional rights. View "State v. Elder" on Justia Law