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Budget woes force Legal Aid to close offices, cut staff  (access required)

The announcement that Legal Aid of North Carolina is closing three offices and cutting positions didn’t come as a surprise to Kenneth Schorr. Schorr, a Charlotte attorney who is executive director of Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont, said groups like Legal Aid and LSSP are struggling to cope with budget cuts. “We have some of the same funding sources as Legal Aid, but all of our funding sources have been hit,” he said. Legal Aid executive director George Hausen said cuts in money from the state as well as the federal Legal Services Corporation resulted in a $2 million shortfall in the coming fiscal year.

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Lawyer turned novelist debunks the bad-writing rap  (access required)

His name is Deaver, Jeffery Deaver and he is, for now, also Bond, James Bond. Deaver, a corporate lawyer-turned master of the crime thriller, is also the author of the latest novel in the James Bond 007 series, “Carte Blanche.” His Bond is an updated version of the spy create by Ian Flaming in 1953. The latest Bond is still in his 30s, but now he's a veteran of the Afghanistan war and equipped with a smart phone that gives new meaning to killer apps. It's appropriate that Deaver stepped away from his 27 crime novels to do a turn at espionage because he is a bit undercover in real life, too. Despite his bestselling books that include one that became the movie, “The Bone Collector,” his is rarely recognized in his adopted home of Chapel Hill.

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New fees stress clerks, litigants and lawyers

An increase in the fee for filing motions in civil cases is expected to generate millions of dollars a year, but many court clerks say it has already created confusion, delays and more work at a time when staffs are stretched too thin. The motion fee, which became effective July 1 along with a number of other fee hikes, is the result of a mutual effort between the legislature and the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, said Judge John W. Smith II, the AOC’s executive director. Because lawmakers declined to raise taxes to offset the budget deficit, Smith said he was forced to choose one of two unappealing options: help raise revenue for the court or lay off dozens of court employees. He opted for the first.

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New law has civil action for fathers of aborted babies (access required)

A House bill that became law on July 28 after the Senate overrode Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto contains a new cause of action for fathers of aborted babies. The law, known as the Woman’s Right to Know Act, imposes several conditions on pregnant women and their physicians before abortions can be performed. It also specifically allows the father to bring an action if those conditions are not met. Katherine Lewis Parker of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said the intent of the new cause of action was “to scare doctors to prevent them from performing medical procedures that they have a right to perform.” Even if lawsuits are not filed, she said, the threat of litigation will cause doctors to be reluctant to perform abortions.

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Forsyth County’s pre-meeting prayers unconstitutionally divisive   (access required)

A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that prayers at Forsyth County Board of Commissioners meetings that mention Jesus and other tenets of Christianity violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. “Sectarian prayer is unconstitutional,” said Katherine Lewis Parker of the American Civil Liberties Union of N.C., who represented plaintiffs Janet Joyner and Constance Lynn Blackmon in their suit against the county. “This serves as a reminder of what the law is. Local and state governments that are violating the law will have to come into compliance,” Parker said.

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Two trials, two verdicts in the Casey Anthony case (access required)

When Casey Anthony (pictured in this AP Photo by Red Huber, Pool) was unanimously acquitted in July, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed that nearly two out of three Americans believed she was guilty of murder. How could the court of public opinion differ so drastically from the jury in an Orlando courtroom? Every parent has experienced that moment of panic in a store or park when you can’t find your child. Those moments can seem like hours, and when your child is found, an unbelievable wave of relief washes over you.

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Womble Carlyle adds another ‘first’ (access required)

Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice clearly likes being first. The firm boasts about being the first law firm in North Carolina to have its own website, first to embrace magazine ads, and first to indulge in airport advertising. But as Guinness World Records proves with every update of its fabled compilation, any list of notable achievements almost always eventually veers into the bizarre. Womble Carlyle’s latest “first” is no exception: first law firm to sponsor a car in a quirky cross-continental road rally that runs from Prague to Mongolia. It’s called the Mongol Rally, and a cardboard cut-out of the firm’s mascot, a bulldog named Winston, is accompanying the team in the firm’s sponsored car.

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McGuireWoods adds muscle to its debt finance group (access required)

Charlotte-based law firm McGuireWoods has added four partners to its debt finance practice group, a move that allows the department to expand its services to two major clients. Attorneys Jim Hedrick, Eric Burk, David Lapp and Kent Walker have joined McGuireWoods, literally moving across the street from the office of Winston & Strawn. McGuireWoods partner Bob Cramer, chairman of the firm’s debt finance department, said their addition means a more solid presence in the loan syndication market.

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Creditor attorneys deal with consumer-protection laws (access required)

The debt crisis was rocking Wall Street and beginning to reach North Carolina. Jerry T. Myers, a well-connected Raleigh debt collection attorney, kept getting regular, half-joking reminders that he needed to organize the state’s creditors bar. Starting in 2008, his friend, Adam Olshan, a board member of the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys, or NARCA, would call every so often and needle him. “So, Jerry, how’s that creditors bar association going?” Olshan would ask, and Myers would answer, “I’m working on it.”

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NC ranks in bottom half of judicial pay nationally (access required)

Serving in a state’s judiciary has long been a noble profession, and many lawyers relish service on the bench after years of appearing before it. But increasingly, people in the legal arena say that too little pay for judges is taking its toll. Young lawyers who once dreamed of becoming judges set that goal aside because the salary is half to two-thirds less than what they’re making in a law practice. And current judges are leaving the bench early, when they hit their first retirement benchmark or even before. That trend doesn’t bode well for the citizenry, local attorneys say.

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