Judgeships in North Carolina’s trial and appellate courts are elected offices. Thus, it often is said that the ballot box is the mechanism for holding the state’s judicial officials accountable. There is, however, another way in which judges may be held to account for misconduct: through disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Judicial Standards Commission. Those proceedings led to the North Carolina’s Supreme Court’s imposition of public discipline for three judges in 2020 and two more judges in 2021. The Judicial Standards Commission’s recently released annual report describes the nature of its work, its composition, and its increasing workload.
WRAL reports that the family of Andrew Brown Jr. has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten, Dare County Sheriff Doug Doughtie, and several deputies. Brown was killed in April as he attempted to flee in his car from deputies who were executing search warrants for his home and vehicle. In May, District Attorney Andrew Womble determined that officers were justified in using deadly force against Brown because he used his vehicle as a weapon while trying to escape. Brown’s family is seeking $31 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Continue reading →
The case is ready for trial and all parties are present. From the bench, the judge makes a final attempt to resolve the case by saying “if we need to do a trial that’s fine, and I can call for a jury right now — but I’m just letting you all know that if the defendant was willing to plead to count 1 and state was willing to dismiss count 2, I’d be inclined to give supervised probation and we could get this case wrapped up today.”
Of course every county and every judge is unique, but most criminal attorneys have at least occasionally experienced some type of participation from the bench in working out a plea. So we know that it happens, but is it actually authorized by our statutes? Should it be? If it is, what are the limits, and what’s fair game for negotiation? Are the judge’s terms binding?
WRAL reports that the owner of a venomous zebra cobra has been charged with dozens of misdemeanors after the snake, which is capable of spitting blinding venom with tremendous accuracy, was roaming loose in a north Raleigh neighborhood in recent weeks. Keep reading for more on this story and other news.
This post summarizes published criminal and related decisions released by the North Carolina Court of Appeals on July 6, 2021. Summaries are also posted to Smith’s Case Compendium, here. Continue reading →
Bill Cosby was released from prison this week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that his 2018 prosecution for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand violated due process. In 2018, Cosby was convicted by a jury and received a prison sentence of three to ten years. Keep reading for more on this story and other news.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced a “comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence and other violent crime” ahead of the summer months when major cities often experience increased gun violence. Among other things, the administration’s press release says that local governments will be able to use American Rescue Plan funds to hire law enforcement officers, prosecute gun traffickers, and invest in new law enforcement equipment and technology. Keep reading for more on this story and other news.
My email continues to stay busy with confusion about juvenile cases, including questions about the status of a case during the time for appeal of an order transferring the case to superior court and the use of an indictment to trigger transfer of a juvenile matter to superior court. This blog will address three frequently asked questions (FAQs): (1) which court has jurisdiction over the case during the 10-day period for giving notice of an appeal, (2) what are the restrictions on recordkeeping during that 10-day period or while the superior court considers any appeal, and (3) may an order for arrest be generated when an indictment is returned in a matter that is under juvenile jurisdiction? Continue reading →
Earlier today, Chief Justice Paul Newby rescinded the two remaining COVID-19 Emergency Directives. The Chief Justice determined that the enactment of S.L. 2021-47 (Senate Bill 255) on Friday rendered unnecessary Emergency Directive 3, which authorized judicial officials to conduct proceedings that include remote audio and video transmissions and Emergency Directive 5, which permitted verification of pleadings and other documents by affirmation of the subscriber.