BLOGS: North Carolina Appellate Blog

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Friday, April 06, 2012, 9:52 AM

Greensboro News & Record Report on Supreme Court Output

Doug Clark, author of the Greensboro News and Record's Off the Record Blog, recently interviewed Chief Justice Sarah Parker of the North Carolina Supreme Court and others regarding the number of opinions produced by the Court.  Clark's piece seems to conclude that the Supreme Court is not publishing enough opinions.

Clark also published a piece on the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Goodyear Dunlop Tires v. Brown.  The North Carolina Supreme Court declined to review the case, but the United States Supreme Court heard the case and reversed the opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  In Clark's view the North Carolina Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case and the subsequent reversal by the United States Supreme Court "led to an embarrassment for the N.C. Supreme Court." 

The North Carolina Supreme Court's level of output has been a source of much debate in the last few years.  Clark's writings echo concerns raised in a white paper entitled The North Carolina Supreme Court in 2010: Is it Time for Reform by Elon University Law School Professor Scott Gaylord. 

In my opinion, the Supreme Court should not take cases and issue opinions just to reach some arbitrary number of opinions that is deemed appropriate by practitioners and the media.  It does not serve the interest of the citizens of North Carolina for the Supreme Court to issue opinions just for the sake of issuing opinions.  However, the Supreme Court's output should be subject to scrutiny and criticism if it is failing to address issues of importance to the jurisprudence of the state or if it is failing to address issues of law have resulted in confusion or conflicting opinions in the lower courts. 

If you think that there are specific issues the Supreme Court should be taking up, but it is not, mention it in the comments.  If we get a number of interesting issues, we may see if we can get guest authors to discuss these issues in future blog posts.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012, 10:38 AM

COA: Joint Bank Account May Create a Fiduciary Relationship

Today, in Dixon v. Gist, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals (Stephens, Chief Judge Martin, and Robert C. Hunter) addressed the circumstances surrounding when a party should have become aware of a fraudulent transfer of property and discussed whether entering into a joint bank account creates a fiduciary relationship between the account holders.

The Court of Appeals summed up Dixon's allegations as follows:

In her complaint, Dixon alleged that she was “befriended” by the Gists, “tricked into believing a special relationship of trust and confidence had been established with [the Gists],” “induced” by the Gists to “convert[ her] bank account into a joint account with rights of survivorship” with the Gists, and, ultimately, “defrauded” by the Gists “out of sixteen [] acres of land and property” and many thousands of dollars in cash. Based on Dixon’s allegedly fraud-induced conveyance of real property to the Gists and on the Gists’ allegedly fraudulent withdrawal of money from Dixon’s bank account, Dixon asserted claims against the  Gists for constructive fraud, civil conspiracy, undue influence, conversion, and declaratory judgment voiding conveyances.
The Gists answered and asserted, in a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, that Dixon's claims were barred by the statute of limitations.  The trial court agreed and dismissed Dixon's claims. On appeal, the trial court's opinion was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part.
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