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Appeals court contest brings rare endorsement from ex-justices

The yard signs aren't up yet. But the websites are up and running as candidates for North Carolina's appellate courts put together their - as usual - low-key campaigns. The November ballot will feature one contested Supreme Court seat and three incumbent Court of Appeals judges fighting to keep their spots. But one race in particular is drawing more attention than usual - a Court of Appeals battle pitting a sitting judge against a 2005 law school graduate who has never practiced law.

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Investigation into Mecklenburg PJC arrangement begins (access required)

Officials in Mecklenburg County are exploring the legality and appropriateness of the relationship among the district attorney's office, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the local courts and the Safety and Health Council of North Carolina, a nonprofit organization that offers defensive-driving courses to ticketed motorists. Mecklenburg County Chief District Court Judge Lisa Bell (pictured) said she began an inquiry into the matter in July after former Mecklenburg County Assistant District Attorney Sean P. Smith first raised the issue publically in an interview with Charlotte's FOX News affiliate.

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Capping e-discovery costs in smaller cases requires creativity (access required)

Electronic discovery shouldn't cost more than a case is worth. Uncovering relevant electronic evidence has become critical in a wide range of civil litigation, from divorce cases to business disputes. But keeping a lid on e-discovery costs can be challenging, especially in smaller cases. To curb e-discovery costs, Conrad Jacoby, an attorney and litigation technology consultant in the Washington, D.C., area, recommends "thinking creatively."

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Cumberland to launch state’s first pre-trial DWI court (access required)

Individuals charged with the most severe drunken-driving offenses in Cumberland County may soon find that their cases are handled a little differently in court. The county's pilot sobriety court kicks off Sept. 28, the latest addition to a growing number of problem-solving courts in North Carolina. "Our focus is to target the most potentially dangerous, addicted offenders who are at-large in the community," said District Court Judge Kim Tucker (pictured), who will preside over Cumberland's sobriety court.

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Unauthorized trustee gives homeowners temporary reprieve (access required)

A Winston-Salem property owner will avoid foreclosure for the time being because a Forsyth County trial court failed to make a required finding in the owner's appeal of a clerk's decision to allow the foreclosure to proceed, according to an unpublished Court of Appeals ruling. The trial court should have determined whether the property owner's loan was a subprime loan as defined under G.S. § 45-101(4), and if it was, it should have determined whether a pre-foreclosure notice described in G.S. § 45-102 was provided and whether the periods of time established by law had elapsed, the panel said. Because it did not, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's order.

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New HIPAA rules create burdens for providers (access required)

Health-care entities can expect to keep busy in the coming year reviewing and revising their privacy notices and updating their contracts with related businesses in light of new proposed HIPAA rules. The rules spell out the HIPAA obligations that Congress included in the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act, which passed in February 2009. Most of the rules were expected, explaining how covered entities must update their privacy notices and detailing how penalties will be assessed for privacy breaches.

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Panel: College’s police force violates First Amendment (access required)

It's not every day that First Amendment issues get raised in a drunk-driving case. But last week the Court of Appeals threw out a DWI case involving an arrest by a Davidson College police officer, agreeing with the defense that Davidson is a religious institution and giving police powers to the school is unconstitutional. "We hold that the delegation of police power to Davidson College ... is an unconstitutional delegation of ‘an important discretionary governmental power' to a religious institution in the context of the First Amendment," Judge James A. Wynn Jr. wrote in a unanimous opinion before his departure to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Allen Brotherton, who represented the defendant, said he thinks the opinion should have an impact on the way campus police departments on all church-affiliated schools in the state operate.

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District court judge inquires about propriety of driving school (access required)

A district court judge has written to the state attorney general and N.C. State Bar counsel about his concerns over the relationship among the district attorney's office, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the local courts and the Safety and Health Council of North Carolina - a nonprofit organization that offers defensive-driving courses to ticketed motorists. Former Mecklenburg County assistant district attorney Sean P. Smith (pictured), who was terminated after he gave an interview to Charlotte's FOX affiliate on July 9, first raised the issue publically.

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Copiers’ memories can cause information leaks (access required)

Most copy machines in use today are digital. The reason they can do so many things so quickly is because they have hard drives that can store tens of thousands of pages of documents. And if that hard drive isn't cleaned before the copier is returned to a rental agency or resold, that information has left the law office. Erik Mazzone (pictured), director of the N.C. Bar Association's Center for Practice Management, said that copiers are expensive items, and most law firms lease theirs. When those copiers are being returned to the leasing agent, attorneys need to make sure the hard drive is clean.

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