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Tag Archives: Legislature

Lay ownership of firms under ‘discussion’ (access required)

Non-lawyers would be allowed ownership in professional corporation law firms - something State Bar rules expressly forbid - under a bill now under consideration in the N.C. Senate. State Bar officials said they have not had a chance to analyze the bill or to make a decision on whether to take a position. But Tom Lunsford, the Bar's executive director, said, "It's a matter of concern to us, and we'll be taking a close look at it." Rule 5.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct states in part that "a lawyer shall not practice with or in the form of a professional corporation or association authorized to practice law for a profit, if a non-lawyer owns any interest therein."

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Legislature considers re-injecting parties into judicial elections (access required)

Measures to restore partisan judicial elections are gaining momentum in both houses of the General Assembly. Supporters say voters need more information about judicial candidates. Opponents of the measure agree, but say that party affiliation is not the information voters need. "Yes, the public needs to know more," said John Wester, past president of the N.C. Bar Association. "But just like a book cannot be judged by its cover, so a candidate for the bench cannot be judged by their political party."

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Bill would extend castle doctrine to cars, workplaces (access required)

Castles are in short supply these days, so the castle doctrine of old English common law gives dwellers of anything from a mansion to a mobile home the right to use deadly force against intruders. But lawmakers are now considering a broad expansion of the law. Under a bill that passed the Senate last month, one's "castle" would also include the workplace and motor vehicles. Scott Broyles, who teaches criminal law at the Charlotte School of Law, said he wasn't too concerned about giving a presumption of fear to the person who used deadly force against an intruder.

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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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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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