Justia North Carolina Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals that vacated Defendant's conviction and remanded the case to the trial court for entry of a judgment of acquittal, holding that remand was required for a new trial.Defendant was convicted of "knowingly and willfully" threatening to kill a court officer. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendant's conviction violated the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. At issue on appeal was whether the First Amendment protected Defendant from being convicted for publishing messages contained in his Facebook posts. The Supreme Court held that Defendant's messages were shielded by the First Amendment and that, because there remained questions for a properly instructed jury, the matter must be remanded for a new trial. View "State v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights, holding that Mother could not prevail on her ineffective assistance of counsel claim.After a hearing, the trial court concluded that grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1) and (6). The trial court then concluded that it would be in the child's best interest for Mother's parental rights to be terminated. On appeal, Mother argued that the trial court failed to ensure that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Mother failed to demonstrate that, but for the alleged deficiency by counsel, there was a reasonable probability of a different result. View "In re Z.M.T." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's order in this case, which imposed continuous GPS tracking using a small, unobtrusive ankle monitor on Defendant for life, constitutionally permissible under the Fourth Amendment as a reasonable, continuing, warrantless search.Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and first-degree forcible rape. Upon Defendant's release from his active sentence the State filed a petition to impose lifetime satellite-based monitoring (SBM) on Defendant. After a hearing, the trial court filed a form order imposing lifetime SBM upon Defendant. The court of appeals reversed, and the State appealed. On appeal, Defendant argued that the imposition of lifetime SBM under the General Assembly's enacted statutory scheme governing the program was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the implementation of lifetime satellite-based monitoring was constitutionally permissible and applicable to Defendant under the Fourth Amendment under the specific facts of Defendant's case. View "State v. Strudwick" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reinstated the order of the trial court imposing lifetime satellite-based monitoring (SBM) based upon Defendant's status as an aggravated offender, holding that the order complied with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and N.C. Const. art. I, 20.Defendant pleaded guilty to first-degree statutory rape and first-degree statutory sexual offense. While Defendant was on probation, he sexually assaulted his minor niece. The trial court ordered Defendant to enroll in lifetime SBM and that, under the totality of the circumstances, the SBM program was constitutionally reasonable as applied to Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a search effected by the imposition of lifetime SBM upon a defendant due to his status as an aggravated offender is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment; and (2) the SBM program does not violate Article I, Section 20 because SMB orders do not constitute general warrants. View "State v. Hilton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence of a bag of narcotics seized from his vehicle during a traffic stop, holding that the trial court properly denied Defendant's motion to suppress.On appeal, Defendant argued that the law enforcement officers conducting a search for weapons on his person and in the areas of his vehicle under his immediate control did not possess the required reasonable suspension to initiate a warrantless search. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the law enforcement officer who conducted the traffic stop presented articulable facts at the suppression hearing giving rise to a reasonable suspicion that Defendant was armed and dangerous; and (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's request to suppress the controlled substances that were discovered as a result of the search of the areas of Defendant's vehicle which were under his immediate control. View "State v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of speeding ninety-four miles per hour in a sixty-five mile-per-hour zone, holding that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his constitutional right to a jury trial.In affirming Defendant's conviction, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals concluded that, even though the trial court failed to follow the statutory procedure for waiver of Defendant's right to a jury trial, Defendant was not prejudiced. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) although the trial court's colloquy was untimely, the facts demonstrated that Defendant understood he was waiving his right to a trial by jury and the consequences of that decision; and (2) Defendant did not meet his burden of demonstrating that there was no reasonable possibility that had the error not been committed a different result would have been reached in a bench trial or a jury trial. View "State v. Hamer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage claim, holding that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and N.C. Const. art. I, 12 explicitly protect petitioning activity, including Defendants' speech in this case.Plaintiff brought this complaint alleging that, by virtue of intentional and malicious misrepresentations made to a town, Defendants tortiously interfered with Plaintiff's prospective economic advantage by inducing a third party not to perform the purchase of certain property. Plaintiff's suit was based on Defendants' presentation at certain rezoning hearings. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, asserting that they were immune from liability because their statements to the town were constitutionally protected petitioning activity. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court court reversed, holding that Defendants' petitioning was protected by the First Amendment and Article I, Section 12. View "Cheryl Lloyd Humphrey Land Investment Co., LLC v. Resco Products, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the order of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that governmental immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claim under the North Carolina Constitution for a school board's deliberate indifference to continual student harassment.Plaintiffs alleged that the school board's indifference denied students their constitutionally-guaranteed right to the opportunity to receive a sound basis education under N.C. Const. art. I, 15. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing in part that the claim under the North Carolina Constitution was barred by the defense of sovereign or governmental immunity. The trial court denied the motion in part and allowed the constitutional claim to proceed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that abuse or an abusive classroom environment does not violate a constitutional right to education. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where a government entity with control over the school is deliberately indifferent to ongoing harassment that prevents a student from accessing his constitutionally guaranteed right to a sound basic education, the student has a colorable claim under the state Constitution. View "Deminski v. State Board of Education" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ordering a new trial in this case on the grounds that the prosecutor's commentary on Defendant's decision to plead not guilty was so unfair it violated Defendant's due process rights, holding that the prosecutor's comments did not so prejudice Defendant so as to warrant a new trial.Defendant was found guilty of several offenses after a jury trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court committed reversible error in failing to intervene ex mero motu when the prosecutor made improper remarks about Defendant's decision to plead not guilty during closing arguments. The court of appeals agreed and ordered a new trial. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant failed to show that he was prejudiced as a result of the prosecutor's improper closing arguments. View "State v. Goins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's conviction for second-degree murder, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the trial court erred by denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence generated from his blood but that the error was not prejudicial.In denying Defendant's suppression motion the court of appeals held that the trial court erred by not excluding Defendant's blood test results but that Defendant failed to carry his burden to show that the denial of his motion to suppress resulted in prejudicial error. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals applied the incorrect standard for determining prejudice resulting from the violation of Defendant's rights under the United States Constitution. View "State v. Scott" on Justia Law