News Roundup

The News & Observer reports that the General Assembly has passed a bill that reduces the number of judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from fifteen to twelve.  The bill is controversial – supporters say that fewer judges are needed because the workload of the Court of Appeals has declined over the past decade while opponents say that the intent of the bill is to limit Governor Roy Cooper’s ability to replace judges who are approaching mandatory retirement.  The legislation is House Bill 239, which Jeff mentioned a few weeks ago in a post about the court’s caseload.

This is the last post of the week as the SOG is closed tomorrow for a holiday, keep reading for more news.

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When Does Paddling Become Child Abuse?

Many–perhaps even most–parents paddle, spank, or otherwise use physical force to discipline their children. This kind of discipline is generally viewed by law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and the courts as a parental prerogative and not as criminal child abuse. Yet there are limits on the degree of physical force that a parent may lawfully employ and the degree of injury a parent may lawfully inflict. A parent who acts with malice, uses grossly inappropriate force or who causes lasting injury may be prosecuted for child abuse. A recent court of appeals case demarcates the boundaries of permissible parental discipline and sets forth standards for determining when physical discipline by parents constitutes criminal child abuse.

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Status of North Carolina Court of Appeals Cases Before the North Carolina Supreme Court on the Scope of a Traffic Stop under Rodriguez v. United States

In Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), the United States Supreme Court significantly limited the scope of a traffic stop. It is almost exactly two years since the ruling, and appellate court opinions throughout the country are still proliferating. And so have our faculty’s blog posts: Jeff Welty has written relevant posts here, here, here, here, and here, Alyson Grine here and here, Shea Denning here, Phil Dixon here, and my posts are here, here, and here. This post summarizes Rodriguez and three North Carolina Court of Appeals rulings that are currently before the North Carolina Supreme Court. Continue reading

Is It Armed Robbery if a Defendant Has a Gun but Doesn’t Expressly Menace the Victim?

Last week, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina decided State v. Wright, a case that answers an interesting question: Does a defendant commit armed robbery when he takes a victim’s property after displaying a gun, even if he doesn’t point the gun at the victim or expressly threaten to shoot the victim — and even if the victim denies having being scared? Continue reading

News Roundup

Arkansas is preparing to execute eight death row prisoners over the course of eleven days later this month in an effort to carry out death sentences before one of the drugs the state uses for lethal injection expires.  NPR has an overview of the situation here.  The plan, which involves executing two prisoners a day, is being criticized on various grounds including that it diminishes the significance of the punishment, risks botched executions, exposes prison staff to significant stress, and leaves insufficient time for clemency appeals.  Keep reading for more news.

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Understanding Consecutive Felony Sentences: The Floor, the Ceiling, and the Roof

Consecutive sentences can be madness. Today’s post will—I hope—give you a championship-caliber understanding of how they are administered. Continue reading

Study Suggests that Licensing Unauthorized Immigrants Improves Traffic Safety

Researchers at Stanford University recently published a study showing that a 2013 California law allowing unauthorized immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses led to a significant reduction in hit and run accidents and did not increase the rate of traffic accidents and fatalities. The study’s authors said this latter finding “suggests there is no empirical support for the claim that unauthorized immigrants are less cautious drivers or generally more likely to cause accidents.” Instead, the findings suggest that “providing driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants led to improved traffic safety” and to “significant positive externalities for the communities in which they live.” What significance might this finding have for policymakers in North Carolina?

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How O.J. Got the Fuhrman Tapes (and You Can Get Out-of-State Materials)

Almost everyone knows about the trial of O.J. Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Many people also know about a key piece of evidence introduced by the defense—taped interviews in which one of the investigating officers, Los Angeles Police Department detective Mark Fuhrman, used racial slurs. Less well known is the legal mechanism that the defense team used to obtain the tapes, which were in the possession of a North Carolina writer who refused to turn them over voluntarily. How did O.J.’s lawyers compel a resident of North Carolina to produce the tapes in faraway Los Angeles, California? This post reviews the procedure used in the O.J. case and other ways to obtain out-of-state materials in a criminal case. Continue reading

Moore v. Texas: The Supreme Court Presses States to Comport with the Evolving Medical Understanding of Intellectual Disability

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Moore v. Texas, the third major case the Court has decided about intellectual disability (formerly, mental retardation) and the death penalty. This post summarizes the case and considers its impact on North Carolina. Continue reading

News Roundup

The Associated Press reports that North Carolina has become the first state in the nation to require all attorneys, regardless of practice area, to reveal any credible evidence or information that creates a reasonable likelihood that a person convicted of a crime is innocent.  The disclosure requirement was adopted earlier this month as Rule of Professional Conduct 8.6 – “Information About a Possible Wrongful Conviction.”  Keep reading for more news.

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