You lost in the North Carolina Court of Appeals, but you have convinced yourself that your legal argument was correct. You file a Petition for Discretionary Review (“PDR”) with the Supreme Court of North Carolina, hoping that the justices will see your side of the story. To your great joy, the PDR is granted. This result means you have a great chance of achieving a reversal, right?
Not necessarily. As we were recently reminded, just because the Supreme Court grants a PDR does not mean that the Court of Appeals erred. The Court released six opinions last week. In the two civil cases decided, one was affirmed without precedential value based on a three-to-three vote of six justices (with one recusing), and the other was resolved with the ruling: “DISCRETIONARY REVIEW IMPROVIDENTLY ALLOWED.” The Court issued the same ruling in a criminal case and a juvenile case.
Such rulings are, of course, a useful tool in the Supreme Court’s toolbox. Some argue that the Court should freely grant PDRs in close cases (to enable the justices to take a closer look at the issues presented for appeal) but freely dismiss by a “DRIA” ruling if the facts or arguments do not ultimately present an issue in a clean posture for more extensive exploration. On the other hand, such a process may prolong an appeal for several months, and it often leaves counsel (and especially parties) with more questions than answers.
That may be important advice to remember as the Court deals with its cases going forward. For example, the Court has just allowed PDRs in several civil cases: High Point Bank & Trust Co. v. Highmark Props., LLC (liability of guarantors and joinder of parties); N.C. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Paschal (insurance coverage); Hammond v. Saini (privilege and work product); and Ward v. Carmona (negligence). But we will wait and see whether the Court tackles those issues in detail.