School’s Out for Summer! (School’s Out Forever?): Distance Learning Policies and The New Normal

By Rachel LaBruyere

Over the past few weeks, parents all over the country let out a collective sigh of relief when the school year ended. They could relinquish their new duties as at-home [insert subject here] teacher. Meanwhile, college and graduate students sat for final exams remotely, shifted to pass/fail grading rubrics, and mourned lost graduations and rites of passage.

Educational institutions from elementary schools to law schools are now considering whether to go fully or partially online in the fall of 2020 and beyond. While privacy has long been a conversation in the education sector, data privacy and cybersecurity issues should be front and center for not only decision-makers but also educators, faculty, and administrators as they make these decisions. Data privacy and cybersecurity issues will not be new to those in the education sector, but what may be novel are all the different parties who may now have access to personal information. These include technology vendors who are not familiar with the student data regulatory landscape, as well as new sources of data as more online tools are leveraged in the distance learning environment. The shifting privacy and cybersecurity landscape makes this a daunting task even for the most tech-savvy institutions. So, where should one start? As discussed in detail below, educators and administrators should ground themselves in applicable requirements under federal and state privacy laws, conduct due diligence on all education technology vendors, and implement or update distance learning policies.

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NCIC Guidelines for Hearings during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Barry Jennings 

The practice of workers’ compensation law in North Carolina continues to adapt to the challenges we all face associated with the COVID-19 Pandemic. Currently, the North Carolina Industrial Commission is primarily holding hearings via video conference on the WebEx platform. In certain limited matters, in person hearings are taking place when ordered by the Deputy Commissioner presiding over the hearing. Recently, the NCIC published Guidelines for In-Person Hearings during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

These guidelines are intended to give practitioners, parties and witnesses to an In-Person NCIC hearing precautions that should be taken during the hearing, including the utilization of face masks and other sanitary measures. It also addresses when individuals should not come to a hearing, such as if they have symptoms associated with COVID-19, confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or contact with individuals known to have been diagnosed with COVID-19. If you have a matter that is going to be heard in person, be sure to review the guidelines to enable to the hearing to proceed as safely as possible for all involved.

2020 NCBA Sustainability Contest Winners

By Maria Savasta-Kennedy

“There is a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”
(Mr. Maguire speaking to Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate)

The Sustainability Committee is thrilled to announce our winners for this year’s NC Bar EENR Sustainability Contest. Our topic this year was—you guessed it—plastics, and our contestants did a terrific job of thinking about what that “great future in plastics”  looks like now.

Specifically, we asked students to respond to the following prompt:

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On A Mission To Address Racial Injustice

As members of the Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section, we stand in solidarity with our friends and colleagues in the Black community and condemn the tragic and senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and many others. We know that racism is deeply rooted in American society and recognize the devastating impact it has on people of color, from daily indignities and marginalization to the tragic loss of these four lives and so many more. We cannot remain silent in the face of these injustices. As lawyers and advocates, it is our ethical duty to condemn white supremacy and actively work to eliminate racial bias in the justice system.

A key mission of the Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section is to promote racial justice through education, awareness, and advocacy within the North Carolina Bar Association, and most importantly, through our work as child and youth advocates. Several years ago, we established a Racial Justice Committee to directly address the harmful impact of structural racism on children of color across systems, including education, child welfare, and juvenile justice. These systems disproportionately fail children of color, as evidenced by the achievement gap, the overrepresentation of minority children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

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SEL Section – Articles of Interest (June 2020)

Members of the Sports & Entertainment Law (“SEL”) Section found the following recent third-party articles to be of potential interest to the Section. Feel free to reach out to the SEL Section communications chair, Kelly Ryan, if you would like to submit either personally written pieces or other third-party articles that would be of interest to the entire SEL Section members.

Back to Business: Hollywood Producers Navigate the Choppy Waters of Reopening Plans and Labor Relations

Cheating in esports: Lessons to learn from the Formula E Racing at Home Challenge

Conducting Your Way Through Music Licensing: The Most Common Issues

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Case Law Update: ED and Classification of Life Insurance Proceeds

By Rebecca K. Watts

Richter v. Richter, decided COA June 2, 2020 (equitable distribution, classification of life insurance proceeds)

During the time Husband and Wife were married to each other, Husband’s ex-wife died. Husband was beneficiary of a life insurance policy that ex-wife had maintained. During the marriage of Husband and Wife, some of the life insurance proceeds were used to make purchases. In the equitable distribution proceeding, Wife claimed the life insurance proceeds and the items purchased with it were marital property of Husband and Wife. Husband claimed it was all separate property. The trial court classified the proceeds and the items purchased with the proceeds as Husband’s separate property. Wife appealed.

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Case law Update: DVPO and Personal Jurisdiction

By Rebecca K. Watts 

Mucha v. Wagner, decided COA June 2, 2020 (DVPO, personal jurisdiction)

Plaintiff and Defendant had been in a romantic relationship until Plaintiff ended it and asked Defendant not to contact her again. At the time their relationship ended, Plaintiff was a college student in South Carolina and Defendant lived in Connecticut.  At some point after the breakup, Plaintiff moved to North Carolina. On her first day living in North Carolina, Defendant called her 28 times. Plaintiff filed a complaint for a domestic violence protective order. Defendant appeared solely to contest personal jurisdiction. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and entered a DVPO against Defendant. Defendant appealed.

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Case Law Update: Supreme Court on Custody & Denial of Visitation

By Rebecca K. Watts

Routten v. Routten, N.C. Supreme Court, decided June 5, 2020 (custody, denial of visitation)

After finding that visitation with Mother would not be in the children’s best interest, the trial court awarded sole physical custody to Father, denied visitation to Mother, and allowed Father to “permit custodial time between the children and [Mother] within his sole discretion.” Mother appealed.

The Court of Appeals held that before applying a best interest test to deny custodial and visitation rights to a parent, the trial court must (1) make a written finding of fact that that parent is “unfit or has engaged in conduct inconsistent with is protected status as parent” and (2) “make those findings based upon clear, cogent, and convincing evidence.” In reaching this determination, the Court of Appeals relied upon the holding in Moore v. Moore, 160 N.C. App. 569 (2003), in which the Court of Appeals held that “in a custody dispute between a child’s natural or adoptive parents, absent a finding that the parents are (i) unfit or (ii) have neglected the welfare of their children, the constitutionally protected paramount right of parents to custody, care and control of their children must prevail.” The Court in Moore based its decision upon the holding in Petersen v. Rogers, 337 N.C. 397 (1994). In her dissent, Judge Inman reasoned that the statute clearly allowed a denial of visitation based upon a best interest determination alone and that Moore had been wrongfully decided and disavowed, and was not controlling.

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Effective June 26, 2020: Face Coverings Required At Construction Sites Where Six Feet Of Social Distancing Is Not Possible

By Riley W. Smith

On June 24, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order No. 147 (“Order 147”), which extends North Carolina’s Phase 2 easing of coronavirus restrictions until 5 p.m. on July 17, 2020. Significantly, Executive Order No. 147 not only delays Phase 3 easing of restrictions but also includes certain amendments to Governor Cooper’s original Phase 2 Order requiring additional protective measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These additional measures, which went into effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 26, 2020, include a requirement for face coverings at construction sites. Specifically, and pursuant to Section II of Order 147, Governor Cooper’s initial Phase 2 order has been amended to require that all construction workers “must wear face coverings when they are or may be within six (6) feet of another person.”

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Ketan Soni Gives Presentation On “Zoom Mediations and Practice Tips”

By Barry Jennings 

On Thursday, May 28, 2020, the NCBA Workers’ Compensation Section hosted an informal discussion regarding the use of the Zoom videoconference platform in the mediation environment. Ketan Soni, partner with Soni Brendle, PLLC in Charlotte, presented on the general use of Zoom, provided tips on how to adjust your settings to most effectively use the platform and offered guidance on how to be successful during the mediation process. It was a jam-packed presentation and should be useful to our practices as we grow more accustomed to using video conferences daily!

You can view another helpful video that Ketan recorded here. In this video, Ketan further highlights the tips he covered in his presentation.