Judicial Decision-Making

Affirm . . . reverse . . . those are the words that usually appear at the end of an appellate opinion.  But last week, the Supreme Court of North Carolina reminded us that it has broad power when it decides cases.

State v. Hammonds was a criminal case in which the defendant moved to suppress statements made to police detectives while he was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. … Continue Reading

Tuesday’s batch of Court of Appeals opinions contained two scenarios in which a trial court’s oral ruling failed to align with its subsequent written order.  While one of the “inconsistent” orders was remanded, the other order was affirmed.  Let’s talk about why.

The order that was affirmed, In re O.D.S., involved a Rule 3.1 appeal.  The trial court stated on the record that DSS had proven abuse and neglect but made no ruling as to dependency. … Continue Reading

A party has an appeal of right to our Supreme Court from certain decisions of the Court of Appeals under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-30.  The overwhelming majority of those appeals of right are taken from Court of Appeals decisions in which there was a dissent.  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-30(2).  Section 7A-30(2) has an oft-forgotten sibling, however.  Section 7A-30(1) provides the right to appellate review by the Supreme Court of any decision of the Court of Appeals that “directly involves a substantial question arising under the Constitution of the United States or of this State.”… Continue Reading

Most appellate questions are decided by a panel of jurists, from the “three-judge panel” ubiquitous in our state and federal intermediate courts to the larger bodies common at the highest courts.  But what about thorny questions faced by solitary judges at the trial court level?

A fascinating article in the New York Times today explores how federal District Court judges rely on informal input from each other to help explore tricky issues. … Continue Reading