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State’s business courts straining under caseload

Earlier this year, a committee of lawmakers asked Business Court Chief Judge John R. Jolly Jr. (pictured) if he thought the Legislature should again raise the fee for filing cases in the state’s three business courts. The fee had jumped from $200 to $1,000 two years ago, which sparked concern and grousing among lawyers and litigants. The number of cases assigned to the Business Court fell by nearly 30 percent, though only for a few months. In fact, case filings quickly rebounded and the courts are busier now than ever – so busy that some lawyers worry that Jolly and the two other Business Court judges will not be able to juggle their caseloads if they don’t get some help. And help requires money.

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NC man separated from wife because feds can’t decide whether he’s married (access required)

A Hillsborough man who married his Indonesian bride in an Islamic ceremony in Jakarta in 2008 has been separated from her and his U.S.-born son because the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security can’t agree on whether he’s married. The Republic of Indonesia’s Department of Religion, Office of Religious Affairs, declared that as of July 12, 2008, there was an “authenticated covenant of marriage” between the man – David Rowe – and Indonesia native Tri Aminudin (pictured with their son, Sean).

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Judge rules in FTC’s favor in suit against NC Dental Board (access required)

Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell has ruled that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners engaged in illegal conduct by asking providers of teeth-whitening services to cease and desist from their activities. The providers were based largely in mall kiosks around the state. Chappell, a federal administrative judge, ruled that Federal Trade Commission staff attorneys had shown “by a preponderance of the evidence that dentist members of the Dental Board had a common scheme or design, and hence an agreement, to exclude non-dentists from the market for teeth whitening services and to deter potential providers of teeth whitening services from entering the market.” The decision followed a four-week trial in front of Chappell in April, according to Raleigh attorney A.P. Carlton (pictured), who represented the Board.

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Young president, old values (access required)

At 44, Martin H. Brinkley is the youngest lawyer to lead the North Carolina Bar Association in over 50 years, but for all his youth what defines him are things old — his old fashioned style, for instance, and his love for the wisdom of the ancients. Brinkley, a business lawyer with the prominent Raleigh firm of Smith Anderson, favors bow ties and quotes freely from the classics of ancient Greece and Rome. Now he wants to give a noble legal tradition new life in North Carolina. His priority as association president is to get more lawyers to donate their time pro bono on behalf of the poor. The words are drawn from a Latin phrase used by Cicero — a Roman writer Brinkley studied as a highly honored classics major at Harvard — “Pro bono publico” or “For the public good.”

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Magistrate laments “really stupid” referrals to lawyer (access required)

A Charlotte judge has thrown out a driving-while-impaired case against a motorist because the magistrate who determined probable cause and set the conditions of the driver’s bond referred the accused man to his friend, an attorney. It is the second case in which a DWI case has been thrown out because of referrals by magistrate Francis G. Beer to his friend, Charlotte attorney Harrell G. Canning. District Court Judge Matt Osman threw out the most recent case on July 8 after hearing from Canning, Beer and the driver. Beer was under subpoena from the driver’s attorney. Canning said he came to testify voluntarily because he was aware of a pending motion to dismiss the case and understood “the portents of the underlying issue.”

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Estate planning lawyers get gift in new tax law – tons of work (access required)

The new tax law, which contains changes to estate, gift and income tax rules, should keep estate planning attorneys busy advising clients on retirement planning for at least the next two years. The changes packed in the tax law signed by President Barack Obama late last year present lawyers with an opportunity to reach out to clients to review their estate plans.

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Judicial reform bills face resistance (access required)

Controversial legislation that would scrap the state’s election-based system for selecting judges appears to have stalled again and has little chance of passing before lawmakers adjourn for the summer. Supporters of judicial selection reform are now pushing the Legislature to form a study commission before the session ends. They’re hoping that the commission either recommends one of two reform bills or comes up with more palatable legislation before lawmakers reconvene for the fall session.

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Surviving the downturn – Part 1  (access required)

The recession has affected lawyers and law firms of all stripes and sizes, altering relationships, changing expectations and forcing uncomfortable conversations between lawyers and clients about the way legal business used to be done, the way it’s done now and the way it will be done in the future. Most lawyers say they began to feel the recession’s effects in the first quarter of 2009. Practical changes in the handling of cases, dealings with clients and firm management quickly followed. Charlotte attorney Zipporah B. Edwards (pictured) said her practice group at Horack Talley, which provides legal services for title insurance companies, has seen what she calls a “counter-cyclical uptick in the last several years because of mortgage-related issues and foreclosures.” But she’s also seen some belt-tightening by clients.

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Surviving the downturn – Part 2  (access required)

Jerry Myers, the managing partner of Smith Debnam Narron Drake Saintsing & Myers, says that because of the recession his firm has "cut down on discretionary spending. We suspended a charity golf tournament we used to sponsor in 2009 and 2010. Our marketing and advertising ventures have been rolled out at a more deliberative pace than if things were normal." He and other North Carolina attorneys share their thoughts on the Great Recession in part 2 of this 3 part series.

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Surviving the downturn – Part 3 (access required)

Jeremy White is a 2009 graduate of Elon University School of Law. He planned to open a solo real estate practice, and did – in the Macon County town of Highlands. But with the real estate market tanking, White was forced to widen his practice. White says, "I’ve definitely modified my expectations. I understand that a six-figure income is still a long way off, but I am optimistic that the real estate market will eventually pick back up, and when it does I hope to be in a good position to finally earn enough to pay down my two-hundred-thousand-dollar-plus student loan debt." He and H. Monroe Whitesides of Charlotte share their thoughts on the Great Recession in the last of this 3 part series.

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