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Ex-judge helps Medical Board hearings stay within the law (access required)

On the theory that you wouldn't want a lawyer to take out your gall bladder, the state's medical licensing board is now getting help from an attorney on how to conduct hearings and hear evidence. When the N.C. Medical Board meets to hear contested cases involving discipline or licensing issues, the board president now has an attorney sit beside him to give advice on issues ranging from admissibility of evidence to the permitted scope of a redirect examination. The new position of independent counsel was created last fall by the General Assembly. The board hired former Wake County District Judge Fred Morelock (pictured) to fill the position.

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The myth of the anchor baby … and other immigration concepts that all attorneys need to know (access required)

"Those of us who practice immigration law are used to seeing eyes glaze over whenever we discuss our craft. This reaction comes as often from other attorneys as from the general public. Our statutes and regulations are exhausting, and our acronyms are annoying. We get it. These days, however, immigration law is hard for anyone to ignore. The recent enactment of Arizona's controversial SB 1070 brought the debate back from the near-dead," Raleigh lawyer Amanda Mason (pictured) writes.

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Does $5.9M verdict show bench trials are best for heart balms? (access required)

The latest large heart-balm award - a bench verdict this time - has North Carolina practitioners debating whether judges or juries are more advantageous for plaintiffs. Pitt County Superior Court Judge W. Russell Duke awarded a jilted spouse $5,896,943, plus $865,150 in prejudgment interest, in a July verdict. Greenville attorney Cynthia A. Mills (pictured) said the facts made it the best heart-balm case she had taken in 21 years of practice.

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Vocation variation: A cop, a cabinetmaker and others find second careers in the law (access required)

Guns, drugs, high-speed chases, pit bulls and stakeouts. Sounds like all of the ingredients of an action movie, but it actually describes the early days of Charlotte attorney Mark Simpson's career. And he didn't practice criminal law - at least not in the traditional sense. Simpson is one of many "second-career" lawyers - those who started off working in one job only to switch to law mid-stroke.

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Plaintiff gets new trial after discovery sanction struck down (access required)

A Wake County auto tort plaintiff will get a new trial after the Court of Appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering production of documents and simultaneously sanctioning him for failing to comply with its order. The trial court sanctioned the plaintiff by excluding two medical bills totaling $3,455 from evidence. Noting that the jury considered $8,705 of medical bills before awarding $12,000, the Court of Appeals posited that "the jury intended to cover all medical bills stemming from the accident plus an additional amount for pain and suffering."

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Not so quick: Instant runoff requires preparation (access required)

For the voters, it might be as easy as one, two, three. For election officials, not so much. The new instant-runoff system that will be used in what has been referred to as a free-for-all race for the Court of Appeals seat vacated by Judge James Wynn is still under development at the state Board of Elections. No fewer than 13 candidates signed up during a one-week filing period after Wynn was confirmed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and elections officials are facing a unique challenge as they put together a system to use the instant-runoff vote statewide for the first time.

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With test results in, hard part begins (access required)

The Charlotte School of Law markedly increased its passing rate on the bar exam from the numbers its first graduating class posted last year - 82.2 percent this year over 67.3 percent in 2009. The top spot among in-state law schools went to UNC, with 90.3 percent of its graduates passing. Elon University's second graduating class did worse than last year, with 79.5 percent passing, although 100 percent of its repeat-takers passed. N.C. Central University finished last with 66.2 of its graduates passing. Both Duke University and Campbell University had passing rates close to Charlotte's at about 83 percent. Of Wake Forest University's graduates, 81.8 percent passed. In all, 73 percent passed.

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Court fleshes out how to calculate ‘income’ for child support (access required)

A North Carolina appellate court has for the first time addressed the effect that payments an employer makes on behalf of an employee have on the employee's adjusted gross income under the child-support guidelines in G.S. § 50-13.4(c). "Any time we have a new case that helps us define what is income and what is not for calculating child support, it is a big deal," said Charlotte attorney Rebecca K. Watts, who represented the mother in Caskey v. Caskey (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-07-0859, 16 pp.).

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Nonprofit sees prisoner mail spike after SBI report (access required)

Fueled by Styrofoam cups of coffee, the attorneys sit around a small table every morning in what they call a "triage" meeting, sorting through more than 100 letters every day from inmates asking for legal assistance. This is life at N.C. Prisoner Legal Services, a nonprofit that contracts with the state to provide prisoners access to the courts. At any one time, the post-conviction team has between 80-120 cases open, according to Mary Pollard (pictured), executive director of Prisoner Legal Services.

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