The Supreme Court just concluded its Term with blockbuster decisions on affirmative action, free speech, and student loan forgiveness. But criminal law practitioners should be aware of a less-ballyhooed case that is significant for its broad pronouncements about the discretion of police and prosecutors. The case is United States v. Texas. This post summarizes the decision and places it in context of the ongoing national debate about discretionary decisions concerning arrest and prosecution.
Wilmington News Station WECT broke the story Wednesday that Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene was recorded in February 2019 making racially-charged comments to Jason Soles, then a Captain who had just been tapped as the temporary leader of the department. Greene’s tenure as sheriff was clouded with controversy from the get-go, beginning with a challenge to whether the recreational vehicle located on farmland he owned in Columbus County was his residence, an issue decided in Greene’s favor by the state elections board. That challenge led to the naming of Soles as caretaker for the department while the elections issues were sorted. Keep reading for more on this story.
I was born the year before the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). Abortion has been a constitutionally protected right very nearly my whole life, so I’ve never needed to examine the issue through the lens of criminal law. That has changed as a result of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 597 U.S. __ (2022), which overruled Roe. This post identifies some of the issues that may arise under North Carolina criminal law in a post-Roe world.
This post summarizes cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 23, 2022. The cases are principally criminal law adjacent, but as appropriate may be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present. Shea Denning prepared the summary of Nance v. Ward, and I prepared the others.
This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the Supreme Court of North Carolina released on June 17, 2022. These summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present. These summaries were prepared by School of Government Legal Research Associate Alex Phipps, except for the summaries of Conner (prepared by Shea Denning) and Kelliher (prepared by Jamie Markham).
On Friday, the Supreme Court of North Carolina decided a civil case in which an arrestee alleged that he was handcuffed too tightly by the arresting officer. The court allowed the suit to proceed over the officer’s claim of public official immunity. This post provides more detail about that case and about the law of tight handcuffing more broadly.
The Supreme Court of the United States decided a malicious prosecution case earlier this month. The case is Thompson v. Clark, 596 U.S. __ (2022), and it has been the subject of some overheated media reports. For example, one outlet claimed that before Thompson, “[p]olice officers could frame people, file bogus charges, [and] conjure evidence out of thin air” yet “still be immune from facing any sort of civil accountability.” Billy Bunion, The Supreme Court Says You Can Sue Cops Who Frame You on False Charges (April 5, 2022). That’s not right, but Thompson is still an important opinion. This post will lay out the basics of malicious prosecution, explain what the Court did in Thompson, and offer some thoughts about the significance of the new ruling.
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.
In 2016, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held in State v. Adams, 250 N.C. App. 664 (2016), that law enforcement officers acted lawfully when, lacking a warrant, they chased a man suspected of driving while license revoked into his home where they arrested him. The court determined that because the officers were engaged in hot pursuit, they did not need to establish additional exigent circumstances such as immediate danger or destruction of evidence to justify forcibly entering the suspect’s home. This year, the United States Supreme Court is reviewing a California case raising the same issue: Does pursuit of a person who a police officer has probable cause to believe has committed a misdemeanor categorically qualify as an exigent circumstance sufficient to allow the officer to enter a home without a warrant? See Lange v. California, 141 S. Ct. 1617 (2020) (granting review of People v. Lange, No. A157169, 2019 WL 5654385 (Cal. Ct. App. Oct. 30, 2019) (unpublished)).
The Supreme Court decided Bucklew v. Precythe today, rejecting a death row inmate’s challenge to Missouri’s single-drug execution protocol. Challenges to lethal injection are now 0-for-3 in the Supreme Court, but the Court did not foreclose future litigation. To the contrary, it left the door open to further challenges, and so did nothing to break up the litigation logjam that has resulted in a de facto moratorium on executions in North Carolina.