A County Attorney Counts Her Blessings

By Aimee Scotton

When I am worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep. And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

Since we’ve reached the start of a new year, I thought this might be a good time to look back and list the things, as a county attorney, that I am thankful for in 2017.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

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NC COA Addresses New Point In Tillett v. Town of Kill Devil Hills

On Tuesday, a panel of the Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision  in a Public Records Act case on a point not previously addressed:  “We therefore hold that, in order to confer jurisdiction upon the trial court in a Public Records Act suit, the plaintiff must initiate mediation within 30 days of the filing of the responsive pleading as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-38.3E(b).”

The Court rejected the argument that this new statutory requirement was merely procedural with enforcement in the discretion of the court in the judicial review.

The decision came in Jerry R. Tillett v. Town of Kill Devil Hills, Public Records Act – Mediation, Public Record Request; No Jurisdiction; Jurisdictional vs. Procedural Rules

What State and Local Governments Need To Know About the FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal

Government and public sector attorneys may not have thought the FCC’s net neutrality repeal had direct impact on their work.  This article, on the newsletter Route Fifty, however, provides information on a little-publicized feature of the FCC’s net neutrality repeal.  The net neutrality repeal apparently also sets out an FCC policy of broadly expanding preemption of state and local laws and rules related to broadband, cell providers, etc.

Bart Goodson: N.C. House Speaker’s Chief of Staff on Serving the Public

By Skye David

“There is no greater challenge and no greater honor than to be in public service.”
                                                                                                                                                                            — Condoleezza Rice

The words of Condoleezza Rice ring true when speaking with the North Carolina House Speaker’s Chief of Staff Bart Goodson.  In a political environment that is seen as incredibly polarized, Goodson’s stabilizing demeanor and passion for the people of North Carolina is both noticeable and enviable.

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Item of Interest: Gatekeeper Orders in North Carolina Courts: What, When, and How

Government & Public Sector Section members should find the following article from the UNC School of Government of interest. It relates to North Carolina law regarding “gatekeeper orders” for frequent, harassing-type filers.

 

Local Governments vs. Big Pharma: A New Wave of Litigation Alleges Liability For the Opioid Epidemic

By Drew Erteschik,[1] J.M. Durnovich and Cosmo Zinkow

        

Introduction

The opioid epidemic is an American tragedy.  It is difficult to convey the breadth of the epidemic with a single statistic, but let this sink in:  For every person killed by gun violence, three people will die from an opioid overdose.[2]

As the epidemic worsens, local governments are scrambling for solutions.  They are also scrambling to keep up with the costs—the public health, law enforcement, public employment, and other costs that the opioid crisis has left on their doorstep.  With insufficient financial assistance from Congress and state legislatures to cover these costs, local governments are turning to the courts.

Across the nation, cities and counties are suing opioid drugmakers and distributors.  These lawsuits seek to hold drug companies accountable—at least in part—for the opioid epidemic.  No North Carolina city or county has filed a lawsuit of this kind yet, but they surely will soon.

The authors of this article—two litigators and their future colleague—would like to explore this litigation in three parts:

The first part gives a brief overview of the costs of the opioid epidemic on North Carolina and its local governments. The second part discusses state and local government litigation against drug companies in other states—essentially a preview of what future litigation in North Carolina might look like. The third part gives the authors’ predictions for the litigation, along with recently released information about a number of large settlements.

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The One CLE You Don’t Want To Miss

If you’re a government lawyer or a lawyer whose practice intersects with the government, then there is one CLE you cannot afford to miss this year: the NCBA’s Nov. 16-17 CLE entitled “The Only Constant is Change: 2017 Legislative, Executive and Judicial Updates.”

Let me give you two reasons why you need to sign up now, if you aren’t signed up already:

First, the CLE features an all-star cast of speakers from all three branches of government.  These speakers include Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeals judges, and the recently retired Speaker Pro Tempore of the North Carolina House of Representatives.  Simply put, there is no more qualified group of individuals than these current and former public officials to speak about the sweeping changes that our state government and local governments have experienced in the past year.

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What Is a ‘Government Attorney’?

By Nicolette Fulton

When meeting a new person, the question I am most often asked after “What is your name?” is “What do you do?”  The answer to that question is not always simple. The simplest answer one can give is one’s title, “I am a/an _____,” filling in the blank with a range of positions, including:  City Attorney, County Attorney, Attorney General, General Counsel for (State Agency), or Clerk.

The first response I get is usually, “Is that like a DA?” or “What does that mean?” I explain that I am an attorney for the government, what our roles are, and “No, I am not a District Attorney.” When it comes to the public, and our colleagues, understanding what it means to be a member of the government and public sector is perplexing.  We are not defined by a practice area, but by our titles or roles (particularly for those in private practice). According to a recent Thomson Reuters survey, the average government attorney works on 32 different matters every week. Government Law Departments 2017, Thomson Reuters. This furthers the “jack of all trades” mentality that dominates many government attorneys. Id. While some do have specialty areas, a large percentage of government attorneys and those in the public sector do not have the specialization enjoyed by those in private practice. However, an alternate viewpoint could be that a government practice opens one to a breadth of knowledge not otherwise available.

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How the G&PS Section Scholarship Helped Elon Law Student Have the Best Experience Of Her Life

By Chelsea Townsend

Editor’s note: The Government & Public Sector Section of the North Carolina Bar Association awards up to three scholarships each year to law students who work as an unpaid interns in a North Carolina government law department. Townsend is a 2L at Elon University School of Law. 

This summer I had the pleasure of interning with the Wake County Public Defender’s Office. When asked about this experience I have a hard time figuring out where to even start. The best way that I could explain my summer is to describe it as “the best experience of my life.” I spent many of my days visiting clients in jail, drafting memorandums, serving subpoenas and conducting investigations. My favorite part of this summer was the actual hands-on experience that I gained. I spent my first year of law school learning how to essentially be a lawyer. However, it is important to note that there are some things that cannot be taught in the confines of a classroom. This internship gave me the opportunity to work on real cases with real attorneys, involving real people, who had real issues. It is one thing to learn how to conduct client interviews in class but it is a completely different thing to actually do it. Within the first week of my internship I found myself doing many of these legal tasks independently. Every day was a learning experience, and for that I am grateful.

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A Heads Up: New Assumed Business Name Law

By Haley Haynes and Ann Wall

On June 2, 2017, Gov. Cooper signed House Bill 228, Postpone Assumed Name Revisions, S.L. 2017-23. This bill postpones the effective date for the new Assumed Business Name Act, codified at Article 14A of Chapter 66 of the General Statutes. The effective date is now Dec. 1, 2017. No new assumed business names can be filed under the old law after Dec. 1. Assumed business name certificates will still be filed at the Registers of Deeds’ offices, but may be effective for multiple counties. Our agency will be responsible for making a statewide online database of all assumed name certificates filed after Dec. 1, 2017.

Haynes is Deputy Secretary of State and Wall is the General Counsel for the Secretary of State’s office.