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N.C. Solicitor General Announces Fellowship Opportunity–Apply Today!

The Office of the Solicitor General needs help.  Solicitor General Matt Sawchak and his dream team represent the State of North Carolina in our state and federal appellate courts.  The Office recently announced the creation of a fellowship opportunity, with applications due by July 1, 2017.

The fellow will draft, research, and comment on appellate briefs, as well as help with oral-argument preparation.  Prior clerkship experience is strongly preferred.  Readers

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Supreme Court: General Assembly Cannot Limit Our Jurisdiction

In this era rife with internecine conflict in state government, we shouldn ‘t forget a less publicized line in the sand.  Our state constitution grants plenary appellate authority to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, ascribing no role to the General Assembly to modify that jurisdiction.

The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is set forth in Article IV, Section 12(1) of our state constitution:
(1)  Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction to review upon appeal any decision of the courts below, upon any matter of law or legal inference . . . .
The Court has not hesitated to exercise that jurisdiction even when a statute purports to limit it, as it reminded us last week.

In State v. Todd, a man convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief (“MAR”) in the trial court, collaterally attacking his conviction on the ground that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.  The trial court denied the motion, but a divided Court of Appeals reversed.  The State appealed to the Supreme Court on the basis of the dissent.

Of course, in North Carolina a party who loses 2-1 in the Court of Appeals has a right to appeal based on the dissent.  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-30(2).  But that right is not absolute:
Decisions of the Court of Appeals upon review of motions for appropriate relief listed in G.S. 15A-1415(b) are final and not subject to further review in the Supreme Court by appeal, motion, certification, writ, or otherwise.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-28(a).
Could the legislature create an appeal right in one statute and take it away in another?  Probably so–the General Assembly has the constitutional authority to create a “system of appeals,” N.C. Const. art. IV, § 12(6), and the constitution is silent on the right to appeal based on a dissent in the Court of Appeals.  But Section 7A-28(a) goes further, purporting to limit the Supreme Court’ s authority to review MAR decisions of the Court of Appeals at all.
That is a bridge too far.  The Supreme Court made quick work of Section 7A-28(a) in Todd, reiterating:

[W]e maintain the authority granted to us by the state constitution and recognize that it is beyond question that a statute cannot restrict this Court’s constitutional authority

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Unpacking the Recent Redistricting Cases

While we normally focus on procedural issues in North Carolina appellate law, a trio of recently decided United States Supreme Court cases arising out of North Carolina affect everyone living in this state.  So in a departure from the norm, what follows is an analysis of these cases and how they will impact both the present and future of electoral districts in the Tar Heel state.

As many have likely

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Appellate Lawyers, The State Bar, And You(?)

Note: My colleague, Pat Kane, wrote a must-read article on final judgments losing their finality  today that you should not overlook.

I recently wrote an article for the State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization highlighting current tips and traps in appellate practice and procedure. Because the article hyperlinks extensively to more detailed blog content, it is a handy roadmap to hotbed issues facing today’s appellate practitioners.  Check it out!

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How a Final Judgment Loses Its Finality

It ‘s a fairly common maneuver by plaintiffs’ attorneys: the trial court dismisses claims against some, but not all, defendants in a multi-defendant lawsuit, so the plaintiff voluntarily dismisses the remaining defendants in order to pursue an immediate appeal of the dismissal order.  The reason for this procedural wrangling is that while the lawsuit against the non-dismissed defendants is still pending, the dismissal order is interlocutory and, absent Rule 54(b) certification or an affected substantial right, that order is not immediately appealable.  Once the remainder

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Governor Cooper Sues to Challenge Bill Downsizing Court of Appeals

As previously blogged about here, here, here, and here, the North Carolina General Assembly recently passed a bill that would reduce the number of seats on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from 15 to 12.  Now the constitutionality of the bill is being challenged in court by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, who had vetoed the bill but then saw that veto overridden by the General Assembly.  Read about the Wake

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