Saturday, October 11, 2008, 10:49 AM

Yesterday's Supreme Court Opinions

Yesterday the NC Supreme Court announced "opinions" in 11 cases. One of the cases was dismissed on the ground that discretionary review was improvidently allowed. Six of the cases involved one-sentence per curiam dispositions with no opinions: five affirmances and one reversal (the reversal was a workers comp case where the Court adopted a dissent in the Court of Appeals). Of the remaining four cases with actual opinions, two were very short, unanimous opinions involving some uncontroversial stuff (in one case, the failure to assign error to finding that DENR was negligent meant that the negligence finding sticks on appeal, with the consequence that the public duty doctrine doesn't apply; in the other case, the Court remanded to have the trial court make findings necessary to resolve a criminal defendant's motion to suppress evidence).

As for the remaining two opinions, one was a criminal case in which the the Supreme Court said it was unable "to determine the proper disposition of the Court of Appeals' decision on account of inconsistencies in both the majority and dissenting opinions." The Supreme Court found statements in the majority opinion to be "conflicting" and held that one of the statements misapplied the governing legal test.

In the other opinion, which involved judicial misconduct by a district judge, the Supreme Court ruled that the Judicial Standards Commission's recommendation of censure wasn't severe enough; the Court ordered that he be disqualified from holding any further judicial office in this State and ineligible for retirement benefits. The order arose from comments the judge had made about a party's ethnicity and nationality. When an SBI agent investigated the judge's misconduct, the judge made "untruthful, deceptive, and inconsistent statements" to the SBI agent. The judge also attempted to "influence the recollections" of witnesses. In deeming disqualification appropriate, the Supreme Court found that the judge had demonstrated a pattern of disregard for the integrity of the judicial office, citing to its decision earlier ordering that this same judge censured and suspended on the basis of other misconduct: (1) upon his election to be a district court judge, he sold his private practice files and leased his building to an attorney, and when that same attorney then appeared as counsel in cases before the judge, the judge failed to disclose their business relationship; (2) the judge made false statements from the bench to a district attorney in an effort to have the DA sign a remittal of disqualification; (3) the judge had created a hostile work environment for members of the DA's staff; and (4) the judge was "habitually rude and condescending to those appearing before him in the courtroom." Yesterday's decision concluded that the judge's "conduct throughout his tenure as a district court judge has been fraught with disrespect for the parties appearing before him, a persistent failure to be truthful, and a disregard for the laws and ethical rules that govern the judiciary."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Turnage opinion seems to be pretty unusual in how pointedly critical it is of both the majority and dissenting opinions, dwelling on the "inconsistencies in both the majority and dissenting opinions."

8:54 AM  

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