Many thanks to Judges Diaz, Gale, and Ridgeway and to all who attended for making last week’s Federal Bar Association CLE a great success.  I’m posting the written materials here for future reference.  More details on the CLE from my original post can be found below.

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In North Carolina, parties with business disputes may have the choice among as many as four “forums” in which to bring their case:  state superior court; superior court with a Rule 2.1 designated judge; business court; and federal court.

This initial decision can have important consequences for the life cycle and strategy of the case.  The differences in the ways those cases are appealed are particularly fascinating.  Superior Court cases are usually appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals as of right, while business court cases go directly to the Supreme Court of North Carolina.  Federal cases, of course, would be appealed to the Fourth Circuit.

Each of those three appellate bodies is quite different from the others not only in procedure, but in the substance of what the court may review.  Take, for example, a case in which there is a North Carolina Court of Appeals opinion on point on a key legal question.  That opinion controls in the superior court, and will continue to control on appeal unless and until the case reaches the Supreme Court.  But that opinion will not control in an appeal from a business court case.  The Fourth Circuit will consider the opinion as non-controlling but strongly suggestive as it guesses what our Supreme Court would hold if presented with the question.

–Matt Leerberg