Your Supreme Court has been busy lately.  Here’s a snapshot of the Court’s oral argument workload for 2015-to-date, compared to the same period last year:

Supreme Court Oral Arguments
2014 2015
January 6 6
February 12 9
March 5 17
April 6 13
May 6 5
TOTAL 35 50

These figures comport with those presented yesterday by Chief Justice Mark Martin during a speech to the Wake County Bar Association.  One of the goals set forth in his “Administration of Justice” plan is to calendar more civil appeals for full briefing and argument at the Supreme Court.  Indeed, much of the increase in the number of argued cases comes from such civil appeals:

Supreme Court Oral Arguments in Civil Cases

2014 2015
January 5 1
February 4 5
March 2 9
April 3 5
May 1 4
TOTAL 15 24

Essentially every appeal on the Supreme Court’s docket is fully briefed and argued.  Thus, the only way to calendar more civil cases for briefing and argument and meet the Chief Justice’s goal is to place more civil cases on the Court’s docket.  One onramp to the Court’s docket–direct appeals from the Business Court–has not yet sent any cases to oral argument in the Supreme Court (to the best of my knowledge), as the direct appeal statute only applies to cases initiated in the Business Court after October 1, 2014.  The other pathway–granting more petitions for discretionary review (PDRs)–has already shown results.  From the Court assuming jurisdiction over five Court of Appeals cases before they were even decided, to the Court’s recent decisions to hear a few civil cases afresh despite unanimous opinions from the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court has shown a willingness to meet the Chief Justice’s goal of hearing more civil cases.

To be sure, it will take some time for the Court’s larger docket to yield more written opinions, especially in civil cases.  The Court’s output of opinions has increased only slightly year-over-year:

Supreme Court Opinions
2014 2015
January 4 6
March 6
April 3 9
TOTAL 13 15

And, as always, many of those opinions are per curiam affirmances or reversals, or “discretionary review improvidently granted,” leaving a smaller number of “authored” opinions:

Supreme Court Authored Opinions
2014 2015
January 1 3
March 1
April 2 3

Finally, there remain very few authored opinions in civil cases, at least for now:

Supreme Court Authored Opinions in Civil Cases
2014 2015
January 1
April 1 1

We’ll keep our eyes on these figures and let you know if and when the growing civil docket of our Supreme Court translates to a growing body of substantive decisions for businesses and other civil litigants in North Carolina.

–Matt Leerberg