Recent Blog Posts

  • Attorneys’ Fees For Acting Outside the Scope of Authority (G.S. 6-21.7)

    Authored by: on Friday, September 5th, 2014

    Litigation is a bit like going out to lunch, Dutch treat. The general rule is that each side pays its own attorneys’ fees and costs. State and federal laws, however, can change that rule, requiring the losing side to pay in certain types of cases. In 2011, the North Carolina legislature enacted G.S. 6-21.7, which allows a judge to award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party in any action in which a city or county is a party if the judge finds that the city or county “acted outside the scope of its legal authority.” The award of attorneys’ fees is mandatory if the judge also finds that the city’s or county’s action was an abuse of its discretion. The court of appeals recently decided the first case interpreting G.S. 6-21.7. The decision provides helpful guidance to trial courts for determining when a city or county has abused its discretion, but it doesn’t directly address the scope of the statute generally. Read more »

  • When to Hold a Referendum: Restrictions and Limitations

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

    The 2013 North Carolina General Assembly enacted numerous major election law changes—the introduction of a photo ID requirement to vote, the elimination of same-day registration and voting, the end of straight-ticket voting, and many others. There was a lot to talk about, and a lot of people did talk, including me here.

    One 2013 change, however, got little attention at the time. It is a significant limitation on when units of government may hold special elections, commonly referred to as referendums. And a further refinement added by the 2014 General Assembly will cause counties to feel a special bite. Read more »

  • “Tag and Tax Together” One Year Later

    Authored by: on Friday, August 29th, 2014

    Happy Birthday, Tag & Tax Together!  What, you haven’t bought a present yet? Well, you best get moving, because September 1 will mark the first birthday of the new taxation system for registered motor vehicles (“RMVs”) known informally as Tag & Tax Together.

    By now everyone driving a car on the highways and byways of North Carolina should have experienced paying their RMV taxes at the same time they renew the tags on their vehicles.  (Other than those gamblers who see how long they can drive with expired tags without getting pulled over by one of North Carolina’s finest, of course . . . )

    Over the past year I’ve blogged about how the new process works, about bankruptcy issues relating to RMVs, and about the counties’ obligations to distribute RMV tax receipts to their municipalities.  I’ve also published this bulletin on “gap billing” for vehicles that move between registered and unregistered status.

    Today I’m back with an update about the new system’s financial performance.  My report might surprise some readers—in a good way. Read more »

  • Privacy, Privatization, and Transparency: 2014 Public Records and Open Meetings Legislation

    Authored by: on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

    Should private information in government hands be considered public record? What about information in the hands of private entities that are carrying out governmental functions? These two issues dominated legislative consideration of the public records and open meetings laws in the 2014 session of the General Assembly. They involve the delicate balance between the strong public policy of transparency in government and the strong interests of private individuals and businesses in their privacy and in the protection of proprietary information. The legislature debated these policy issues, attempting to strike the right balance in several different contexts. As you read this post, think about how you have voted in each instance. Read more »

  • Adjournment Sine Die

    Authored by: on Friday, August 22nd, 2014

    On August 20, the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned sine die (Joint Res. 2014-8). The term sine die is from the Latin “without day;” this type of resolution means that the legislature did not set a date to return to Raleigh to continue the work of this legislative session. The House and Senate were considering several different adjournment resolutions and it looked like they might even return to Raleigh to take up additional legislative business after the elections in November. Ultimately, they opted to end the short session in August, which is fairly typical.

    According to the resolution, the legislators will return in January to begin the 2015-16 biennium. It’s possible they could return to Raleigh sooner if the Governor reconvenes the legislature to reconsider vetoed legislation (NC Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 23)  or the Governor or legislature calls an extra session (NC Constitution, Art III, Sec. 5; Art. II, Sec. 11). There have been a few rumors to that effect.

    Now that it’s (probably) over, you may be wondering how can you learn more about the bills that actually passed. I have a few suggestions…

    Read more »

  • That Court of Appeals Ballot

    Authored by: on Friday, August 15th, 2014

    In July John Martin, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, announced his retirement effective August 1st. Given the timing of his decision, state law requires an election in November to fill the seat but no primary in advance to reduce the number of candidates. It appears that everyone who has ever aspired to be an appellate judge sees this as an opportunity to catch the ring, and 19 candidates have filed. One of them will get more votes than the others, though it may not be very many, and will be elected with no run-off. Nineteen candidates, one vote, one time, most votes wins. Some people may think this is not the best way to choose a judge for an eight-year term on North Carolina’s second highest court. How did we end up with such an election? Read more »

  • The FLSA’s Professional Duties Test – Part 1

    Authored by: on Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

    The FLSA’s Professional Duties Test – Part 1

    The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally requires that employers pay employees a time-and-half premium wage for hours worked past 40 in a workweek. Many employees are not entitled to this premium overtime pay, however, because they are “exempt.” In previous blog posts here, here and here, I have discussed two of the three kinds of exemptions from overtime pay – the executive exemption and the administrative exemption. This post introduces the professional exemption, the last of the three. The professional duties exemption involves not one kind of exemption but is actually several exemptions gathered together in one name. It will take me two posts to cover them all, this post and one more to come. That last one will by my last post in this series on FLSA exemptions.

    Read more »