Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Carolina Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court ordered that Respondent William F. Brooks be suspended without compensation from office as a Judge of the General Court of Justice, District Court Division, Judicial district Twenty-Three, for thirty days from the entry of this order, holding that Respondent violated Canons 1, 2A, 5D, and 6C of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.The Judicial Standards Commission recommended that Respondent be censured for violations of Canons 1, 2A, 5D, and 6C amounting to conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that constituted willful misconduct in office. Respondent accepted responsibility for his actions, acknowledging they were wrong, and the Commission found that Respondent cooperated, admitted error and showed remorse. The Supreme Court concluded that the Commission's findings of fact were supported by clear and convincing evidence and that the Commission's conclusions of law were supported by those facts and then determined that a one-month sanction was appropriate. View "In re Brooks" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between petitioner Ashe County Board of Commissioners and respondents Ashe County Planning Board and Appalachian Materials, LLC arising from Appalachian Materials' application for a permit pursuant to the County's Polluting Industries Development Ordinance authorizing Appalachian Materials to operate a portable asphalt production facility on property located in Ashe County, the Supreme Court held that the case should be remanded due to errors by the court of appeals.After the Planning Board ordered that a permit be issued to Appalachian Materials Ashe County sought judicial review. The trial court ordered the County to issue the requested permit within ten business days. The court of appeals affirmed the challenged trial court order. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the County's failure to appeal a letter written by the Planning Director gave that letter partially binding effect. The Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded the case, holding that the court of appeals erred by holding that Ashe County lost its right to challenge the issuance of the contested permit because it failed to seek review of opinions that the Planning Director expressed in the letter. View "Ashe County v. Ashe County Planning Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part orders entered by the North Carolina Utilities Commission addressing applications filed by Duke Energy Progress, LLC and Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC, holding that the Commission erred by rejecting an equitable sharing proposal without properly considering and making findings and conclusions concerning "all other material facts," as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 62-133(d).Various interveners representing the utilities' consumers appealed the Commission's orders, challenging the lawfulness of the Commission's decisions concerning the extent to which the utilities were entitled to reflect costs associated with the storage and disposal of ash resulting from electricity production in coal-fired electric generating units in the cost of service used to set the utilities' North Carolina retail rates. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the Commission (1) did not err by allowing the inclusion of a majority to the utilities' coal ash costs in the cost of service used for establishing North Carolina retail rates and in increasing Duke Energy Carolinas' residential basic facilities charge; but (2) erred in rejecting an equitable sharing proposal without making the statutorily required findings and conclusions. View "State ex rel. Utilities Commission v. Stein" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights, holding that a parent and child must be living apart from each other for more than twelve months prior to the filing of a motion to terminate parental rights in order for grounds for termination to exist under N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(2).Less than eight months after the child in this case was moved to a different foster home apart from Mother, the Cabarrus County Department of Social Services (DSS) filed a motion to terminate Mother's parental rights. The trial court entered an order terminating Mother's parental rights pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(2), (3), and (6). The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the child was not left in foster care outside the home for more than twelve months the termination of Mother's parental rights under section 7B-1111(a)(2) cannot be sustained; and (2) the trial court made insufficient findings of fact to support its conclusions of law that grounds to terminate Mother's parental rights existed under sections 7B-1111(a)(3) and (6). View "In re K.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' decision affirming the North Carolina Industrial Commission's finding that the uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) proceeds that Plaintiff received on behalf of her husband's estate through the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit were subject to Defendants' subrogation lien under N.C. Gen. Stat. 97-10.2, holding that the UIM proceeds recovered from the wrongful death lawsuit may not be used to satisfy Defendants' workers' compensation lien.The decedent, Plaintiff's husband and an employee of Employer, was involved in a fatal motor vehicle accident with a third party in South Carolina. The Commission ordered Defendants to pay workers' compensation benefits to Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed a wrongful death case seeking damages from the third party driver. The parties reached a settlement agreement that included recovery in the form of UIM proceeds. The workers' compensation insurance carrier for Employer subsequently claimed a lien on the UIM proceeds that Plaintiff recovered from the wrongful death settlement. The Commission ordered the distribution of Plaintiff's entire recovery from the South Carolina wrongful death settlement, concluding that Defendants were entitled to subrogation under section 97-10.2. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants may not satisfy their workers' compensation lien by collecting from Plaintiff's recovery of UIM proceeds in her South Carolina wrongful death settlement. View "Walker v. K&W Cafeterias" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's award of attorney fees to Defendant, holding that N.C. Gen. Stat. 6-19.1 does not preclude a trial court from awarding attorney's fees in disciplinary actions by a licensing board, but when there is substantial justification for the agency's claims, the award of attorney's fees is unjust.The North Carolina State Board of Plumbing, Heater, & Fire Sprinkler Contractors disciplined Dale Winkler for working on a pool heater without proper licensure. The trial court affirmed. The court of appeals concluded that the Board lacked jurisdiction to discipline Winkler for conducting the pool heater inspection and vacated the portion of the Board's order relating to Winkler's inspection of the pool heater. Winkler then filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs. The trial court awarded Winkler attorney's fees and costs. The court of appeals held that the trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees because section 6-19.1 excludes cases arising out of the defense of a disciplinary action by a licensing board. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that the trial court erred in awarding Winkler attorney's fees because there was substantial justification for the Board's claims. View "Winkler v. N.C. State Board of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the court of appeals and the trial court holding that the City of Asheville improperly denied an application for the issuance of a conditional use permit submitted by PHG Asheville, LLC seeking authorization to construct a hotel in downtown Asheville, holding that the City lacked the authority to deny the requested conditional use permit.The trial court determined that PHG was entitled to the issuance of the requested conditional use permit because the City had improperly concluded that PHG failed to present competent, material, and substantial evidence tending to show that the proposed hotel satisfied the standards of a conditional use permit set out in the City's unified development ordinance. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that PHG presented competent, material, and substantial evidence that the proposed hotel satisfied the relevant conditional use permit standards set out in the City's unified development ordinance. View "PHG Asheville, LLC v. City of Asheville" on Justia Law

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In this dispute concerning the manner in which the cost of pensions for certain retirees should be funded, the Supreme Court held that the Administrative Procedure Act's (APA) rulemaking procedures bind how the Retirement System's Board of Trustees adopt "cap factors" under the anti-pension spiking provision at issue in this case.In order to calculate the retirement benefit cap applicable to each retiree, the Act to Enact Anti-Pension-Spiking Legislation by Establishing a Contribution-Based Benefit Cap directs the Retirement System's Board of Trustees to adopt a contribution-based benefit cap factor recommended by an actuary, which the Board had traditionally adopted by resolution. Here, the Retirement System determined that Dr. Barry Shepherd's pension benefits were subject the contribution-based benefit cap. The trial court concluded that the Board of Trustees' adoption of the cap factor was void because the action was subject to rulemaking under the APA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board of Trustees was required to adopt the statutorily mandated cap factor utilizing the rulemaking procedures required by the APA; and (2) the Retirement System erred by billing the Board of Education an additional amount relating to Dr. Shepherd's pension, in light of the Board of Trustees' failure to adopt the necessary cap factor in an appropriate manner. View "Cabarrus County Board of Education v. Department of State Treasurer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's summary judgment for the Town of Pinebluff, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that Session Law 1999-35 required Moore County to approve Pinebluff's expansion request.Session Law 1999-35 amended North Carolina's extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) statute, N.C. Gen. Stat. 160A-360, as it pertained to Pinebluff. After Pinebluff annexed land extending beyond the town's corporate boundaries, Pinebluff requested that the Moore County Board of Commissioners adopt a resolution to authorize the expansion of Pinebluff's ETJ two miles beyond the annexed boundary, pursuant to section 160A-360. The Board denied the request. Pinebluff filed a complaint against Moore County seeking a writ of mandamus. The trial court granted summary judgment for Pinebluff and directed Moore County to adopt a resolution authorizing Pinebluff to exercise its ETJ within the proposed area. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there is no irreconcilable conflict between subsections (e) and (f) of section 160A-360, as modified by Session Law 1999-35, and that subsection (e) prohibits Pinebluff from extending its ETJ into the requested areas within an agreement between Pinebluff and Moore County. View "Town of Pinebluff v. Moore County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court terminating Mother's parental rights to her five minor children, holding that the trial court's findings supported its conclusion that grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights to the children pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(3).The trial court concluded that grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights based on neglect, failure to make reasonable progress toward correcting the conditions that led to the children's removal from her care, failure to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of the children's care while they were in the custody of the Department of Social Services (DSS), and dependency. The court further concluded that terminating Mother's parental rights was in the best interests of the children. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the record supported the trial court's conclusion that grounds existed to terminate Mother's parental rights for failure to pay a reasonable portion of the cost of the children's care while they were in DSS custody. View "In re J.M." on Justia Law