The question in the title of this post is an oversimplified version of the issue addressed by the court of appeals last week in State v. Bailey, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2019 WL 3925864 (Aug. 20, 2019). But it isn’t oversimplified by much, and the appellate division may be inching closer to answering the question in the affirmative. Continue reading →
Editor’s note: The opinion analyzed in this post was withdrawn shortly after publication and replaced with this opinion reaching the same outcome.
Last week, in State v. Ellis, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2019 WL 3559644 (N.C. Ct. App. Aug. 6, 2019), a divided panel of the court of appeals held that a trooper properly stopped a vehicle “after witnessing . . . a passenger in [the] vehicle . . . extend his middle finger in the trooper’s general direction.” The majority acknowledged that “there are a number of decisions from courts across the country [holding] that one cannot be held criminally liable for simply raising his middle finger at an officer.” Yet it ruled that the defendant’s conduct provided reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, namely, disorderly conduct. See generally G.S. 14-288.4(a)(2) (making it unlawful to make a gesture “intended and plainly likely to provoke violent retaliation”). Let’s take a closer look at Ellis.Continue reading →
Last month, the North Carolina Court of Appeals decided State v. Copley, __ N.C. App. __, 2019 WL 1996441 (May 7, 2019), in which a divided panel held that the trial court abused its discretion by overruling the defendant’s objections to the prosecutor’s remarks about race during closing argument. For that reason, the Court vacated the defendant’s first degree murder conviction. This post discusses the law governing when parties in a criminal trial may discuss issues of race, as well as emerging strategies for mitigating the effects of implicit racial bias on decision-makers. Continue reading →
The ability to file a misdemeanor statement of charges is a superpower for district court prosecutors, enabling them to overcome virtually any error in a criminal pleading with the stroke of a pen. Arraignment in district court is kryptonite, robbing the superpower of its efficacy. This dynamic was on full display in State v. Capps, __ N.C. App. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2019 WL 2180435 (May 21, 2019), a recent opinion by the court of appeals.Continue reading →
The court of appeals just decided another case on the community caretaking doctrine. It’s the fourth published community caretaking case in the last five years, and there have been a couple of unpublished ones as well. The activity in the appellate division suggests that the doctrine is being invoked much more frequently in the trial courts. This post explains the new case and provides a quick refresher on the older ones.
This March, you almost need a bracket to keep up with recent personnel changes in the state’s judicial branch. Not only were a handful of new appellate judges elected to office in 2018, but, just in the last month, the governor appointed a new chief justice and announced plans to appoint a sitting court of appeals judge to fill the associate justice seat she vacated. In the same time frame, the General Assembly passed legislation to prevent the departure of a sitting court of appeals judge from reducing the size of that court. Having trouble keeping up? This post will review recent events impacting the composition of the state’s appellate courts and judicial branch leadership and preview potential changes to come.