The Supreme Court released a batch of orders today, denying review in many cases (as usual) but also granting review in six cases. These six grants—the first from the new Beasley Court—cover issues ranging from federal immigration enforcement by local law enforcement agencies to defamation and Batson challenges.
First up are the habeas petitions of two immigrants detained by the sheriff of Mecklenburg County. In Chavez v. Carmichael, the petitioners attacked the authority of the sheriff to detain them. The superior court granted relief and ordered them released. The sheriff then appealed to the Court of Appeals, where the United States participated as amicus on the sheriff’s behalf. The Court of Appeals agreed with the sheriff that the superior court lacked authority to grant relief because the immigrants were being held under the authority of the federal government. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the merits of that decision.
The North Carolina Solicitor General also had his petitions granted in a pair of cases affecting the funding of the pension system for state employees. The dispute stems from a 2014 law directing the state retirement system to adopt and adjust actuarial formulas so that the system could remain solvent. In this case, the Cabarrus County School Board argues that when the system issued a new formula with a “cap factor,” it engaged in rulemaking, which is governed by the state Administrative Procedure Act, but the system didn’t follow the procedures for rulemaking. The superior court and Court of Appeals both agreed that the retirement system had to follow the APA’s rulemaking procedures. The question on review, as the State puts it, is: “Did the Court of Appeals err by ruling that the cap factor requires rulemaking?”
The Court is also going to review a multi-million dollar verdict against the News & Observer based on reporting about the State Bureau of Investigation. The issues before the Court involve application of the First Amendment’s “actual malice” standard, and the standard’s interaction with the state’s punitive damages standard.
Today’s other grants involve Batson challenges and class actions. Two unrelated grants will have the Supreme Court review what the defendants say is a line of cases from the Court of Appeals fundamentally misapplying the law that governs racial discrimination in criminal jury voir dire. A final grant will let the Supreme Court determine when, if ever, a class-action defendant can moot a class action by mooting the claims of a class representative.