Last week, we wrote about a bill that was introduced in the legislature that would shrink the Court of Appeals to 12 judges while tweaking the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to cover direct appeals from orders on class action certification and to provide another pathway for consideration of “Bypass PDRs.”
We had a hard time understanding two things about the bill: (1) why did the bill also give an appeal right to the Supreme Court from decisions regarding an attorney’s scheduling conflicts under Rule 3.1 of the General Rules of Practice; and (2) how can the bill be characterized as a workload-shifting measure when the sum total of cases shifted to the Supreme Court would likely number in the single digits annually?
An astute reader has a guess. What if the bill’s sponsors actually meant to shift appeals under Rule 3.1 of the Appellate Rules to the Supreme Court? While appeals from Rule 3.1 of the General Rules of Practice likely number a handful (or perhaps even zero) per year, there are about 150 appeals per term arising under Rule 3.1 of the Appellate Rules. Shifting those appeals form the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court would actually effect a significant shift between the dockets.
For those are not familiar with Appellate Rule 3.1, the rule establishes a fast-track framework for consideration of certain “qualifying juvenile cases,” including cases involving the termination of parental rights. Appellate Rule 3.1 cases are given priority over any other case being decided by the Court of Appeals.
If that is the bill’s true intent, then we might expect the bill to be modified to correct what would appear to be a lost-in-translation error. Conforming revisions to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1001 and Appellate Rule 3.1 would be needed as well.