Recent Administrative Law Cases of Significance

The Supreme Court of North Carolina

June 5, 2020, Supreme Court

Wetherington v. N.C. Department of Public Safety, N.C. Highway Patrol (135P20). Listed under “other matters,” the Court dissolved the respondent’s previously granted motion for temporary stay and denied both its PDR and motion for writ of supersedeas, as well as an amicus request. You can read the Court of Appeals Opinion here.

Note:  This is the administrative law case with the first sentence that made national news [“It is unlikely so many lawyers have ever before written so many pages because of a lost hat.”)

Chavez v. McFadden. June 5, 2020 , Supreme Court, 437PA18 (Justice Sam Ervin IV), Published

Whether state judicial officials have the authority and jurisdiction to rule on the legality of immigration arrest warrants and detainers issued by the federal government requesting local law enforcement agencies to detain individuals suspected of violating federal immigration laws for at least 48 hours after their state criminal matters have been resolved.

Winkler v. N.C. State Bd. of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors. June 5, 2020 , Supreme Court, 319PA18 (Justice Cheri Beasley), Published

Whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that a prevailing party in a disciplinary proceeding by a licensing board cannot recover attorney’s fees pursuant to N.C.G.S. 6-19.1.

From the opinion: “In this case, the Court is asked to consider whether a trial court may award attorney’s fees to a prevailing party in a disciplinary action by a licensing board. Because we conclude that N.C.G.S. § 6-19.1 does not preclude a trial court from awarding attorney’s fees in disciplinary actions by a licensing board, we modify and affirm the holding below.”

Chappell v. N.C. Dep’t of Transp. May 1, 2020, Supreme Court, 51PA19 (Justice Anita Earls), Published

In an inverse condemnation proceeding for a Map Act taking, did the trial court’s jury instructions and evidentiary rulings erroneously characterize the nature of the taking in a way that prejudiced the Department of Transportation, was the trial court’s decision to reject a quick take counterclaim on the eve of trial an abuse of discretion, and did the trial court properly take account of property taxes and correctly calculate pre-judgment interest.

DTH Media Corp. v. Folt. May 1, 2020, Supreme Court, 142PA18 (Justice Michael Morgan), Published

Appeal from order and final judgment holding that information obtained as a result of a public records request for information on students found responsible for serious sexual misconduct was considered educational records as defined by FERPA and therefore protected from disclosure; whether the trial court erred in determining that FERPA granted the UNC-CH discretion to release the name of any student found responsible by the university for serious sexual misconduct and preempts the Public Records Act.

North Carolina Court of Appeals

Sound Rivers, Inc. v. N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (18-712 – Published). Author: Judge Donna Stroud, with concurring/dissenting opinions

Wastewater; Swamp Waters; Biological Integrity Standard; Water Quality

Note: After a first quick review of this case, Clark Wright, one of our Section Council members had this to say:

“I believe that this is an important case for admin law—it clearly shows that, after all these years, we still do not have clarity from our appellate courts regarding the critical issues of deference—not only to agency findings and agency interpretations of relevant regulations, but also in terms of deference to findings/rulings by ALJs on issues of law and fact. Given that this case was well lawyered, the fact that it spawned not one, not two, but at least three different opinions from members of the CTA speaks volumes. The case does at least provide unanimous rulings on the broad definition of “persons aggrieved” . . . The opinion is “only” 98 pages long—enjoy! If you want to zero in, I suggest reading the two short concurrences/dissents first, along with pages 1-4, and then cherry pick the rest . . .”

In re: Harris Teeter, LLC. June 2, 2020, Court of Appeals, COA19-927 (Judge John Arrowood), Published (has a dissent)

NCGS 105-283 true value, ad valorem property tax valuation, depreciation; NCGS 105-290(d2), NCGS 84-2.1, practice of law, scrivener’s exception to practice of law

State v. Byrd (18-1256 – Unpublished). Author: Judge Wanda Bryant

Motion to dismiss; felonious common law obstruction of justice.

Note: Included as it is one of those “liar-liar-pants-on-fire” cases and a salutary lesson regarding checking credentials of expert witnesses (and others).

Privette v. N.C. State Bd. of Dental Exam’rs. May 5, 2020, Court of Appeals, COA19-1048 (Judge Christopher Brook), Unpublished

Professional licensing and North Carolina Administrative Procedure Act; revocation of license to practice dentistry; fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation and standard of care issues.

Nichols v. Admin. Off. of the Courts. April 7, 2020, Court of Appeals, COA19-1011 (Judge John Arrowood), Unpublished

Tort claims act—motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6); judicial immunity; gatekeeping order

Case involves prisoner filing against Superior Court Judge in Industrial Commission. Special Deputy Commissioner for the Industrial Commission entered a gatekeeper order that was affirmed by the full Commission. Discussion of facts and gatekeeping orders may be useful to administrative law practitioners.

North Carolina Business Court

Business Court Considers “Extraordinary” 5-Page Introductory Narrative
An “Introduction” in a Complaint: How Much Is Too Much? Matthew Krueger-Andes, April 23, 2020.