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What Type of Review Is Triggered by a “No-Merit” Brief?

At first blush, it might not seem surprising that the Court of Appeals would dismiss an appeal if “[n]o issues have been argued or preserved for review.” But what is surprising is the fact that the Court reached that conclusion in a published opinion and, in doing so, made a significant change to the jurisprudence of cases arising under Rule 3.1 of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure

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Judge Duncan Celebrated for 15 Years on the Bench, Will Take Senior Status

Former clerks, friends, and many others gathered at the Pavilion at the Angus Barn on Saturday to celebrate the judicial career of Allyson K. Duncan, Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Judge Duncan has served on that fine court for fifteen years, since her unopposed confirmation in 2003.  Judge Duncan ‘s accomplishments during that span are too numerous to list here, but I would encourage anyone looking for an education to ask her about her tireless efforts to build bridges between our judiciary and nascent judicial systems around the world.

Oh, and also ask Her Honor about orchids.  Judge Duncan has an orchid named after her.  For real.

In any event, the celebration was a great success and included a video address by Judge Duncan’ s friend and former colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas; a pithy speech by former Justice

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Come see about…who? Thoughts on the Supremes

Now that an opening looms on the Supreme Court of the United States, the thoughts of all who follow this blog turn to Justice Kennedy’s replacement.  Regardless of what can be said about the qualifications of the various contenders for the seat, one aspect of the announced selection process is heartening.  An unusually wide net is being cast.

Consider some of those who have sat on that Court in

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Marbury v. Madison–in 2018?

Time Machine

Unlike some sites, this blog does not focus heavily on decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. But last Friday’s decision in Ortiz v. United States on the breadth of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is a must-read for anyone interested in appellate practice and procedure.

As background, the petitioner in Ortiz was a member of the military who was convicted of a crime as part of a military

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UPDATE: SCOTUS Vacates and Remands NC Political Gerrymandering Case

As I wrote last week, after the Supreme Court held that the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford had failed to prove that they had standing to bring their voter dilution claims, the best chance for the Supreme Court to actually reach the merits of political gerrymandering any time soon lay with a case out of North Carolina, Rucho v. Common Cause. Alas, in an order issued today, the Court vacated

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Setting the Tone


Writing some opinions can be a daunting and sometimes downright unpleasant experience. Others, however, can be a pleasure, especially when the facts are unusual or offbeat.  In all cases, however, the judge or justice writing the opinion knows that case and its outcome are important to those involved.  For that reason, most judges who draft appellate opinions are careful to maintain a neutral tone when discussing the facts and

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