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Trial court tripped over constitutional issue, judges say (access required)

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While business litigation attorneys often find themselves in federal court based on diversity issues, it’s rare for constitutional issues to pop up in state cases. But recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals overruled a lower court’s denial of an out-of-state judgment, concluding that the trial judge failed to consider the constitutional implications of the Full Faith and Credit Clause.

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New trial ordered over issue of attorney conflict (access required)

gavel

A question out of Forsyth County about a defendant’s right to choose his own counsel seems to have flummoxed a judge, a defense attorney, a prosecutor and even the ethics counsel of the state bar. The North Carolina Court of Appeals straightened out the matter when it clarified that the defendant also had to give his consent to waive a conflict between his appointed attorney and a state’s witness.

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School board claims immunity in lawsuit over sex abuse (access required)

school books

The Burke County Public Schools Board has raised a governmental immunity defense against a lawsuit alleging that it failed to protect children from sexual abuse at the hands of a former teacher. The suit was brought by the family of a young girl who was exploited by third-grade teacher Michael Alexander at the Hildebran Elementary School. Now, a second family has joined the action against the school board and its staff members, said an attorney for the plaintiffs, Robert M. Tatum of Tatum & Atkinson in Raleigh.

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Digital sleuthing (access required)

digital lock

Until recently, the phrase “private investigator” would likely conjure images of Sam Spade tailing a cheating spouse. That kind of work has long been a staple of family law and criminal defense attorneys, but these days the most lucrative part of the gumshoe business is “corporate intelligence”—the investigative firms that specialize in sniffing around corporations, often to assist with pending litigation.

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Lawyer sues client for $200,000 in unpaid legal fees (access required)

contract

A Durham lawyer is going after a former client in N.C. Business Court for allegedly stiffing him out of $200,000 for his legal work. Solo practitioner Peter H. Priest says in a lawsuit that he deserves a cut of the $800,000 that former client Gabriel Coch, manager of Information Patters in Chapel Hill, got from the sale of a patent.

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Parents of accident victim must pay court costs (access required)

toe tag money

The parents of a Franklin County man who was mistakenly declared dead will have to pay court costs to the medical examiner who placed his still-living body in a morgue drawer, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled. Larry Donnell Green was struck by a car while walking down a road in January 2005. Paramedic Wade Kearny was the first to arrive and after checking Green’s vital signs concluded he was dead. Several more paramedics showed up, but none double-checked Green’s vitals, saying Kearney’s efforts had been sufficient.

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Two criminal issues, two unexplained rulings from NC Supreme Court (access required)

DNA

The North Carolina Supreme Court punted on a chance to examine the reliability of a new scientific advance in the toolbox of crime scene investigators. A Gaston County jury found Mark Bradley Carver guilty of the 2008 murder of UNC Charlotte student Irina Yarmolenko based largely on the presence of Carver’s “touch DNA” on Yarmolenko’s car. Testing for touch DNA, which is left when skin cells touch an object, is a relatively new practice.

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Wife’s attorney sanctioned for leaving husband in jail (access required)

jail

Legal battles between ex-spouses can be bitterly contentious, but a recent decision by the federal Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina set some ground rules attorneys may wish to heed. A lawyer in a Granville County case got her client’s ex-husband thrown in jail for failing to pay his debts, but now finds herself out over $9,000 when she failed to help him get out of jail once he declared bankruptcy.

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Court: Arbitration agreement not fatally vague (access required)

contract

Last month, the North Carolina Court of Appeals struck down an arbitration clause for being inflexible about the arbitrators to be used. (See “Arbitration agreement proved too specific,” NLCW Jan. 28.) On Feb. 5, vagueness was in vogue at the court as it upheld an arbitration clause in a different case against claims that it was too vague to be enforceable.

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