Friday, January 25, 2008, 2:49 PM

NC Supreme Court Action Today

Today the NC Supreme Court released orders and opinions.

As for opinions: the Court released 12 decisions. Six are per curiam reversals or affirmances. The other six are opinions. The 12 decisions include five reversals. Four of the 12 decisions are termination-of-parental-rights cases (the Court of Appeals had reversed termination in several cases); it appears that, when the dust settles from the various affirmances and reversals in these cases, the result in each case is termination of parental rights. There are four criminal cases, and it appears the criminal defendants prevailed in three of the four.

But by far the biggest case of the day, one with enormous ramifications, is Tillman v. Commercial Credit Loans, Inc., in which a divided Court held a consumer arbitration agreement unenforceable under the doctrine of unconscionability. Sarah will post on that case later.

As for orders, the Court did not grant discretionary review in any cases. Among the cases in which review was denied: a Court of Appeals decision holding that, when parties have an arbitration agreement, it is for the arbitrator, and not the trial court, to determine whether the plaintiff's claims are barred by the preclusive effect of a prior arbitration under the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. The Court of Appeals held that a case must be submitted to arbitration even when the trial court is convinced that the claims are barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel. State and federal courts elsewhere (applying the Federal Arbitration Act, which also governed the subject case on which the Court denied review today) have ruled that courts, not arbitrators, apply res judicata and collateral estoppel, absent a clear agreement by the parties to the contrary.


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