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CMPD officer pleads guilty in DWI testimony case (access required)

A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who allegedly gave false testimony in a driving-while-impaired case in April has pleaded guilty to criminal contempt. Officer B.D. Grimes entered the guilty plea on Aug. 23 before Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Richard Boner. Boner had appointed Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell to handle the case because Grimes’ prosecution by the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office would have created a conflict of interest.

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The buck stops with NFL star  (access required)

Charlotte defense lawyer George V. Laughrun II had never tried a civil case. But when an NFL linebacker asks you to do something, you do it. Three-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jon Beason of the Charlotte Panthers hired Laughrun after he was arrested and charged with assaulting a man at a Queen City strip club in November 2009. The District Attorney’s Office later dismissed the case against Beason, but the alleged victim, Greg Frye, sued him for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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4th Circuit strikes down hypothetical sentencing enhancement  (access required)

A federal appeals court has ruled that actual time in prison, rather than the maximum amount a defendant could have gotten, should be considered when judges wish to invoke a repeat-felon sentence. Federal prosecutors in 2008 recommended that Jason Edward Simmons be sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. Simmons had been convicted in 1996 in North Carolina state court on a similar marijuana charge, which was punishable by more than a year in prison and thus constituted a felony even though he only served probation. Without the prior felony on his record, he would have served roughly half the ten-year sentence prosecutors sought on the federal conviction. Asheville attorney Andrew Banzhoff (pictured) represented Simmons on his appeal.

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Experts debate cost involved in demolition of home’s costly addition   (access required)

A dispute over the remodeling of a million-dollar Charlotte home, which has pitted neighbor against neighbor and already reached state Court of Appeals once, may come down to a simple bit of algebra: how much demolition, and at what price. But experts who testified for neighbors Pierce and Cindy Irby and the owner of the remodeled home, Elaine Freese, couldn’t agree on how much it would cost to demolish and rebuild a half-million dollar addition Freese built on the front and side of her home in Myers Park in 2008.

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“Diminished capacity” a tough sell to juries  (access required)

As lawyers for Robert Stewart present their case to jurors, they’ll face daunting challenges in trying to convince those 12 men and women that the disabled painter who killed eight people at a Carthage nursing home isn’t fully responsible for those acts. Above all, they’re likely to face the kind of skepticism that has greeted what are known as diminished capacity defenses for over three decades, ever since the so-called “Twinkie defense” helped get Dan White convicted on lesser charges after he shot and killed the mayor of San Francisco and city supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978. “Especially in violent crimes and crimes that appear to shock the conscience of a community, like those that Mr. Stewart is accused of committing, any type of defense based on mental illness is very, very difficult,” said Elizabeth Kelley, chairwoman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ mental health committee.

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Traffic court to resume in Brunswick County   (access required)

Chief District Court Judge Jerry A. Jolly has reinstated Brunswick County’s traffic court, but the legal battle surrounding his original order to close the session continues to percolate behind the scenes. Jolly halted traffic court with an April 15 administrative order that raised concerns about a $250 campaign donation that newly elected District Attorney Jonathan M. David received from an instructor at the StreetSafe driving school. David represents Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties.

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SC’s tough new immigration law could push foreign-born workers and their legal needs northward (access required)

If South Carolina’s aggressive new immigration law takes effect next year as scheduled, the controversial measure could clog the Charlotte Immigration Court with deportation cases and lead to a spike in business at law practices throughout the Carolinas. Modeled after legislation in Arizona, the immigration crackdown would allow police to rely on “reasonable suspicion” when asking for proof of citizenship or legal residence during any kind of stop, investigation or arrest. The law also establishes an Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit and requires employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check whether employees and job applicants are legal residents.

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After tort reform, support costs of litigation get a hard look from lawyers (access required)

In anticipation of state legislators passing tort reform, Mark McGrath and his law partner, George Podgorny, started reviewing medical malpractice cases for filing about eight months ago. With the new tort reform law taking effect Oct. 1, the triage of what to fast-track and what to drop continues unabated at McGrath Podgorny in Research Triangle Park. Every new case coming in is probed: How many medical experts are needed to present the case? How much research will be required? What’s the chance of settling the case or winning a jury verdict if it goes to trial? Is the patient at the center of the case a child or a nursing home resident?

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Superior Court electronic filing program stalls   (access required)

The effort to bring a modern electronic filing system to every Superior Court in North Carolina started off with a bang but has quietly fizzled in the two years since its inception. The momentum behind the project stalled shortly after it was launched in 2009, when the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts started its electronic filing pilot project in Chowan, Davidson and Wake counties. AOC officials predicted at the time of the launch that the project could be rolled out statewide as early as 2010. But the project still has not expanded beyond the original three counties. “Of course, at first there were high hopes that this was the beginning of electronic filing in North Carolina,” said Wake County Clerk of Superior Court Lorrin Freeman (pictured with assistant clerk Tasha O'Neal). “Since then, the court’s budget has been cut in three successive legislative cycles and any expansion on the pilot project has been put on hold.”

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NLRB eyes Carolina office as it decides where to cut (access required)

Labor lawyers and a pair of North Carolina congressmen are pressuring the National Labor Relations Board to look elsewhere as it goes about the business of studying which regional offices can be closed. The NLRB is conducting a review of its Region 11 office in Winston-Salem, which serves North Carolina, South Carolina and parts of Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Under pressure to cut costs, and facing a changing employment landscape, the board is considering downsizing the office and consolidating it with another region. That has area labor and employment attorneys scratching their heads.

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