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Stam pushes good-faith exception to exclusionary rule (access required)

The effort to adopt the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule has been given a jolt by House Majority Leader Paul Stam (pictured). Stam, R-Wake, introduced a bill to adopt the exception, and it passed the House last week in an 81-36 vote and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee I. "The practical result [if the bill passes] is that in an unknown number of cases, murderers, rapists and drug dealers won't get off on a technicality. They will have to pay for their crimes," Stam said.

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Med-mal bill would cap damages, increase threshold for ER claims (access required)

The state's legal landscape for medical-malpractice lawsuits would undergo a seismic shift and North Carolina would join 28 other states with caps on damages if a bill introduced last week becomes law. The bill, S. 33, is now being debated in the Senate's Judiciary I Committee. At a packed hearing before the committee Thursday, it attracted the attention not only of attorneys and doctors, but also such diverse entities as the AARP and the N.C. Chamber of Commerce. The bill would limit noneconomic damages in medical-malpractice cases to $250,000. It would also require a showing of gross negligence by clear and convincing evidence if the claim involved emergency care, and allow separate trials for liability and damages if either party asks for it.

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Bill would give appellate court appointees time to exhale (access required)

They're not calling it "Cressie's Law," but a bill introduced in the state House last week with bipartisan support is designed to prevent a Court of Appeals race from turning into a 13-way scramble as it did when Judge Cressie Thigpen (pictured) ran to retain his seat last fall. The bill, H. 99, would amend the N.C. Constitution so that appellate judges will "have adequate time to fulfill their judicial duties before running for election," as the title of the bill says.

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Repeat DWI offenders may face enhanced penalties (access required)

A bill that Shelby attorney and state Rep. Tim Moore is sponsoring would enhance penalties for certain DWI offenders, but some attorneys say the bill ties the hands of judges and won't cut down on drunk driving in the state. Moore, R-Cleveland, was joined by Michelle Armstrong (pictured) at a press conference to unveil the bill on Feb. 8. Armstrong's 17-year-old daughter, Laura Fortenberry, was killed July 25 when a vehicle driven by Howard Clay Pasour allegedly crossed the centerline and struck Fortenberry's car head-on in Gaston County.

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Push for ban on cell phone use while driving is on (access required)

With texting behind the wheel already outlawed in North Carolina for more than a year, two new bills have been introduced in the legislature this year to ban cell phone use while driving. H. 31, titled "An act to make using a mobile phone unlawful while driving a motor vehicle on a public street or highway or public vehicular area," sponsored by Reps. Garland E. Pierce, D-Hoke, and Charles Graham, D-Robeson, was filed in the house on Feb. 2 and passed first reading on Feb. 3. It was referred to the committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House.

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Senator, constituent push for mandatory blood tests in fatal crashes (access required)

Drivers in North Carolina who are criminally charged in any case involving a death by vehicle may be subject to a mandatory blood test under legislation proposed by Sen. Doug Berger. Marbeth Holmes' parents, James Preston and Mary Charles Holmes (pictured), were killed in a head-on collision near their Louisburg home on June 26, 2008. Then-22-year-old Louis Mahler Joyner later pled guilty to two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. His sentence: two years of probation and his driver's license was revoked for two years.

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