Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court

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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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Defendant’s vehicle was stopped by a firefighter for driving erratically. Defendant unexpectedly drove away from the scene but was soon encountered by police officers, who cited her for driving while impaired and driving while license revoked. Defendant subsequently pleaded guilty to driving while impaired. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress, claiming that firefighters do not have legal authority to conduct traffic stops. The Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s order, finding that the firefighter’s actions constituted a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Defendant never challenged the actions of the arresting officers, she presented no legal basis for suppressing the evidence supporting her conviction. View "State v. Verkerk" on Justia Law

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By 2013, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) had purchased several hundred properties for the construction of a highway project known as the Northern Beltway. In 2010, Plaintiffs filed a complaint and declaratory judgment against NCDOT, asserting claims for, inter alia, inverse condemnation. Plaintiffs also sought class certification for themselves and all others similarly situated whose property NCDOT was “obliged to purchase.” The proposed class included over 800 property owners within the Northern Beltway. The trial court denied NCDOT’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claim of inverse condemnation but denied class certification. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and reversed in part the opinion of the court of appeals, holding (1) the courts below erred in analyzing the substantive merits of Plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claim at the class certification stage; and (2) the court of appeals correctly concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Plaintiffs’ motion for class certification because the unique nature of property, coupled with the large number of diverse tracts involved in this litigation, would make individual issues predominate over common issues of law and fact in a trial on the merits. View "Beroth Oil Co. v. N.C. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of trafficking in opium by possession. During the trial, a laboratory report of the results of a chemical analysis of the contraband were admitted, over Defendant’s objection, without calling the testing chemist as a witness. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the State failed to establish that Defendant waived his confrontation rights because the record did not demonstrate that the State had provided a pretrial copy of the lab report to Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Defendant failed properly to raise or preserve the issue regarding the State’s compliance with the statutory requirement that the State provide a copy of the lab report to a defendant before trial. Remanded. View "State v. Whittington" on Justia Law

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Greensboro police officers recovered a firearm ten to twelve feet from a car in which Defendant, a convicted felon, was a passenger. Defendant was arrested and later confessed that the firearm belonged to him. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a felon. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred by denying Defendant's motion to dismiss the charge of possession of a firearm by a felon because, pursuant to the corpus delicti rule, the State did not present corroborative evidence, independent of Defendant's confession, tending to show that the crime in question occurred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the State v. Parker articulation of the corpus delicti rule, the State was not required to submit alternative evidence proving Defendant's identity as the perpetrator beyond Defendant's confession, and therefore, the evidence was sufficient for the State to survive Defendant's motion to dismiss the charge of possession of a firearm by a felon. View "State v. Cox" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine, and Defendant thereafter admitted his habitual felon status. Defendant appealed, arguing that the admission of testimony by an expert in forensic chemistry regarding the results of a chemical analysis performed by another chemist violated his Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause rights. The court of appeals reversed and granted Defendant a new trial, concluding that the admission of the testimony was error. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that even if admission of the testimony was error, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "State v. Williams" on Justia Law