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The Judicial Standards Commission (JSC) imposed a public reprimand on Judge Jerry R. Tillett (Defendant), a judge in Judicial District One of the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, for misconduct while in public office. Defendant accepted the reprimand, and the JSC’s official filing constituted the Commission’s final action on the matter. Two years after Defendant accepted the reprimand, the State Bar commenced a disciplinary action against Defendant by filing a complaint with the North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Commission (DHC). Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. The DHC denied the motion to dismiss, arguing that the DHC infringes upon the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction by initiating attorney disciplinary proceedings against a sitting member of the General Court of Justice for conduct while in office. The Supreme Court reversed the DHC’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss, holding that the DHC lacks the authority to investigate and discipline Defendant for his conduct while in office. View "North Carolina State Bar v. Tillett" on Justia Law

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CommScope Credit Union (Plaintiff), a state-chartered credit union, hired Butler & Burke, LLP (Defendant), a certified public accounting firm, to conduct annual independent audits of its financial statements. Plaintiff later filed a complaint alleging breach of contract, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and professional malpractice. Defendant pleaded seven affirmative defenses, including contributory negligence and in pari delicto. The trial court subsequently granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) the specific allegations in Plaintiff’s complaint were sufficient to state a claim for breach of fiduciary duty, and (2) Defendant’s affirmative defenses would not entitle Defendant to dismissal at this stage. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) Plaintiff’s allegations did not establish that Defendant owed it a fiduciary duty in fact, and therefore, the trial court correctly dismissed Plaintiff’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; and (2) the members of the Court are equally divided on whether the facts alleged in the complaint established the defenses of contributory negligence and in pari delicto, and therefore, the court of appeals’ decision on this issue is left undisturbed. View "CommScope Credit Union v. Butler & Burke, LLP" on Justia Law

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Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC (Duke) owned an easement in Huntersville, North Carolina allowing construction of and access to its power lines. A portion of Herbert Gray’s property encroached on Duke’s right-of-way. Duke asked Gray to remove the encroachment. When Gray did not reply, Duke filed suit seeking injunctive and other relief. The trial court concluded that the six-year statute of limitations for an injury to an incorporeal hereditament set out in N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-50(a)(3) had run and that, consequently, Duke had no legal remedy. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) removal of the encroachment is a recovery of real property lying outside the scope of section 1-50(a)(3); and (2) therefore, this action fell within the twenty-year statute of limitations set out in N.C. Gen. Stat. 1-40. Remanded. View "Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC v. Gray" 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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Defendant was indicted for felony larceny and conspiracy to commit felony larceny. Defendant admitted that he stole clothing from Belk’s Department Store, and Belk’s surveillance system captured the theft on video. The only contested issue at trial was the value and quantity of the stolen clothing shirts. During trial, the court admitted the surveillance video showing Defendant stealing shirts. The State called a regional loss prevention manager for Belk to authenticate the video for admission and to offer his opinion about the contents of the video. The jury found Defendant guilty. The Court of Appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction for felony larceny, concluding that the trial court erred by admitting the video because it was not properly authenticated and erred in admitting the witness’s estimate of the value of the stolen shirts because the testimony was not based on the witness’s firsthand knowledge or perception. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the State properly authenticated the video by presenting evidence that the video surveillance system was reliable and that the subject video had not been altered; and (2) because Defendant failed to make a timely objection to the witness’s testimony, he failed to preserve that issue for appellate review. View "State v. Snead" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Beverage Systems of the Carolinas, LLC (Plaintiff) entered into an asset purchase agreement with Loudine Dotoli and two companies to purchase the assets, customer lists, and inventory of the companies. The parties executed a non-competition agreement (Agreement) that contained a provision permitting the trial court to revise its temporal and geographic limits that would otherwise render the Agreement unenforceable. Loudine’s wife, Cheryl, who was not a party to the Agreement, later formed Associated Beverage Repair, LLC. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Loudine, Cheryl, and Associated Beverage, alleging against Loudine breach of the agreement not to compete and against all Defendants tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, and unfair and deceptive practices. Defendants answered that the Agreement was unenforceable by being overly broad in geographic scope. The trial court entered summary judgment for Defendants. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in refusing to amend the Agreement and in granting summary judgment on Plaintiff’s remaining claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Agreement is unenforceable at law and cannot be saved, as parties cannot contract to give a court power that it does not have; and (2) the trial court properly entered summary judgment in Defendants’ favor on Plaintiffs’ remaining claims. View "Beverage Sys. of the Carolinas, LLC v. Associated Beverage Repair, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Injury Law

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Plaintiffs challenged legislation that authorizes the General Assembly to appoint a majority of the voting members of three administrative commissions, alleging that, by giving itself the power to appoint commission members, the General Assembly had usurped the Governor’s constitutional appointment power and prevented him from performing his constitutional duty to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. The superior court determined that the challenged appointment provisions did not violate the appointments clause but did violate the separation of powers clause. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) the appointments clause places no restrictions on the General Assembly’s ability to appoint statutory officers; but (2) the challenged provisions violate the separation of powers clause because the legislative branch has exerted too much control over commissions that have final executive authority and thus interfered with the Governor’s ability to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. View "State ex rel. McCrory v. Berger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional 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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Plaintiff’s car was struck by a school activity bus transporting students and school staff to an extracurricular event. Plaintiff brought this action before the North Carolina Industrial Commission pursuant to the Tort Claims Act to recover for alleged negligence by Randall Long, the bus driver and an employee of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education. The Commission granted the Board’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s claim because the claim did not fall within the parameters of N.C. Gen. Stat. 143-300.1, which confers jurisdiction upon the Commission to hear claims for the negligent operation of “school buses” and “school transportation service vehicles” when certain criteria are met. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that school activity buses are plainly excluded from section 143-300.1, and therefore, the Commission did not have jurisdiction in this case. View "Irving v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ." on Justia Law