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Right for the Wrong Reasons, Redux

NOTICE:  Take the following post with a grain of salt.  The Court of Appeals issued an updated opinion in the Ellis case on 20 August 2019. Although the opinion is still 2-1, most of the language in the original majority opinion that I blogged about pertaining to appellate practice and procedure has been removed.  The updated opinion also leaves no doubt that the issue of reasonable suspicion was first raised …Read More


Most readers of this blog are familiar with the Appellate Judges Education Institute, an annual seminar devoted to appellate practice.  Don’t be distracted by the name.  AJEI has programs for appellate practitioners and staff attorneys, in addition to judges. Registration for AJEI 2019 is now open. AJEI is an intellectual feast for lovers of appeals and, as you can see from the program available on the registration site, 2019 is no …Read More


We all remember the old common law rule that every dog gets one free bite, with the bite putting the owner on notice of the dog’s anti-social tendencies.  In today’s more crowded world, where both dogs and pedestrians have proliferated and frequently mingle, the applicable law has become more complex.  While some states still follow the one-bite rule, the North Carolina General Assembly has imposed strict liability on the owner …Read More

Matt and Drew’s Excellent Adventure

On Friday, June 14, 2019, you have a chance to hear all about a U. S. Supreme Court case from those who were there.  And it’s free for all members of the NC Bar Association!  Here are the details: In Kimberley Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust v. North Carolina Department of Revenue, ___ N.C. ___, 814 S.E.2d 43 (2018), the Supreme Court of North Carolina considered whether defendant could tax …Read More

Big Wheel Keep On Turning

While I can’t say I’ve seen everything, there are days when I feel like I’m getting close.  Although this blog has most often looked at North Carolina or Fourth Circuit cases, we sometimes cast a wider net.  Let’s consider a recent published opinion from the Sixth Circuit, Taylor v City of Saginaw, et al. Plaintiff Taylor apparently was fed up with a particular officer working for defendant City of Saginaw’s …Read More

Looking for love in all the wrong places

An appellate court will usually affirm or find no error in a trial court action if the result is deemed correct, even if the trial court’s rationale isn’t.  Both State and Federal courts seem to call on this doctrine with some frequency.  Here are just a few of the many similar opinions I found in a cursory search: Perry v. Commonwealth, 280 Va. 372 (2010) (Virginia Supreme Court), U.S. v. …Read More

Who let the Dog(wood) out??

I suspect that every reader of this blog nurses a fear of making a jurisdictional error that kills the client’s appeal.  For North Carolina practitioners, three recent Court of Appeals cases give guidance to help alleviate that existential dread.  All these cases were in the batch filed on 19 March 2019. Let’s begin with Wright v Alltech Wiring & Controls, No. COA18-833, the only published opinion of the three.  We …Read More

A Wistful Farewell

Chief Justice Martin has just announced his retirement from the bench. While his accomplishments are well-known, Mark (and since that’s how I’ve always known him, I won’t stop now) has always been a little formal in public and prefers to divert attention to others. So what’s he really like? Having spent sixteen years working with him, I hope I can shed a little light on that question. Mark’s early adulthood …Read More

In Re Civil Penalty (again)

Last October, I blogged about the interaction between State v. Alonzo, __ N.C. App. __, 819 S.E.2d 584 (2018), and In re Civil Penalty, 324 N.C. 373, 379 S.E. 2d 30 (1989).  To recap, In re Civil Penalty holds that the first Court of Appeals opinion addressing an issue controls if that issue arises again and that the Court of Appeals cannot overrule itself.  The Alonzo result was based upon …Read More

Farewell, My Lovely—Oops, Not Quite

The Supreme Court of North Carolina just issued a fascinating but divided opinion with facts straight out of a 1940’s noir thriller.  How far can a would-be wife killer go before he gets into serious trouble? The case is State v. Melton, 253 PA 17, issued 7 December 2018.  It began when defendant Melton, in a bitter custody dispute with his former wife, contacted a friend who defendant believed had …Read More