Recent Blog Posts

  • Cleaning Up the Voter Rolls

    Authored by: on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

               You didn’t vote in the presidential election in 2008 and let’s say you don’t vote in the presidential election of 2012.  You don’t vote in any election in between, for mayor or sheriff or state legislature or school board or anything.  The way the law used to work, you would be removed from the voter rolls.  The assumption would have been that you must have moved away or died.  You were caught in what was indelicately called the “purge.” 

                That was a chief way that voter rolls were kept up-to-date and scrubbed of ineligible names for many years, until the middle of the 1990s.  Congress in 1993 passed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), effective in 1995, which outlawed the removal of voters from the registration books merely for not voting.  That made it much harder to keep the rolls accurate. Read more »

  • Weak Housing Market Hits Property Taxes

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 29th, 2011

    After showing signs of life in 2010, the North Carolina housing market has slumped again in 2011. 

    The N.C. Association of Realtors reports that existing home sales volume through July was down 7% from last year and down 22% from mid-2008 just before the national economy really hit the skids.

    The average sale price of an existing N.C. home is $198,635, roughly where it was in mid-2005.  That’s down about 12% from peak prices in 2007.

    While these declines are small potatoes compared to the dramatic drop-offs in cities like Las Vegas, the N.C. housing slump is severe enough to hurt local government property tax revenues.  And because property taxes are the single largest source of general fund revenues for N.C. local governments, any drop in property tax revenues will have a major impact on local government budgets across the state. Read more »

  • Mini-Brooks Act FAQ’s

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

    NOTE:  This post has been updated to reflect changes enacted by the General Assembly in 2013.

    In North Carolina, the procurement of professional services performed by architects, engineers, surveyors, and construction managers at risk is governed by G.S. 143-64.31, sometimes referred to as the “Mini-Brooks Act.” Eileen Youens[1] authored an excellent blog post on Contracting for Design Services which describes the requirements of the Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) process for procuring services covered under the Mini-Brooks Act.  If you’ve not read her post (or not read it in a while), I commend it to you.  Following are some frequently asked questions about the Mini-Brooks Act and a trivia bonus question that will explain why the picture above is included in this post. Read more »

  • E-Discovery in North Carolina Courts: An Overview of Recent Amendments to the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

    As noted in a previous post, the General Assembly recently enacted S.L. 2011-199 (HB 380), which, effective October 1, 2011, amends the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure (NCRCP) to address issues related to e-discovery in North Carolina state courts. (For the unversed, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party can obtain evidence from the opposing party (and sometimes by non-parties) through various means including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, and depositions. And, e-discovery is the discovery of information that is stored electronically.)

    This post summarizes the major changes to the NCRCP as they relate to e-discovery in North Carolina state courts and compares them with similar provisions in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), which apply in federal courts. Read more »

  • Annexing Streets – Interpreting S.L. 2011-57, and Dealing With Half a Street

    Authored by: on Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

    The recent annexation reform legislation summarized in my earlier blog post, changed the involuntary annexation laws, but left the basic structure for voluntary annexation in place. The legislature, did, however, modify the petition signature requirements by enacting S.L. 2011-57 (HB 171), apparently to address a concern about cities annexing streets they don’t own. The act itself is fairly simple. It essentially prohibits a city from petitioning itself to annex property it doesn’t own (a city would not have been permitted to do this under the existing law), and clarifies the status of petitions for satellite annexation that include property that is exempt from the signature requirements.  The law raises a possible conflict with existing law, however, when applied to contiguous annexations in which streets are used to create contiguity, as permitted in G.S. 160A-31(f). This post summarizes the basic petition requirements for voluntary and involuntary annexations, explores the meaning of the new law, and also discusses the related issue of annexation areas that include only half of a street. Read more »

  • Minimum Housing: A Way Around Residential Inspection Limits?

    Authored by: on Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

    Tim Taylor is both a housing inspector and the appointed minimum housing public officer for the town of Tooltime, North Carolina. For years he has conducted periodic inspections of dwellings throughout the town in accordance with his town’s periodic inspection program. When those inspections revealed minimum housing violations, he used his powers as a minimum housing public officer to ensure that the dwellings were either repaired or demolished as required (of course following the strict procedures for minimum housing actions as required by law). He has never given much thought to the distinction between his role as an inspector and his role as a minimum housing public officer. That is, until the summer of 2011. Read more »

  • Metadata, E-Discovery, and E-Public Records in North Carolina

    Authored by: on Thursday, September 15th, 2011

    The “digital age” has been upon us for many years, but the legal system continues to struggle to keep pace with the fundamental transformation it has caused in the way people communicate and generate and store information. The discovery of electronic information in civil litigation (e-discovery) is one area that presents particular difficulties for public sector entities. Providing access to electronic information pursuant to public records laws is another. The sheer volume of data that is now created and stored electronically and the dispersion of that data across multiple platforms and repositories poses ever-increasing costs and burdens on governments forced to search, retrieve, and review electronic information pursuant to even routine public records or discovery requests. A significant body of case law has developed over the last several years to address the myriad of issues posed by operating (and litigating) in the digital age. One of the many issues that continue to vex litigants, courts, and commentators is the preservation and production of metadata.

    As described in a previous post, metadata is information describing the history, tracking, or management of an electronic document. There is no single, “dictionary” definition of metadata. The term has come to be understood, at least in the legal community, to describe a variety of information associated with electronic documents or files. Examples of metadata include a document’s or file’s designation, dates it was created, last accessed, or modified, its author, and its edit history. Metadata also may include information that is recorded by a computer to assist in storing and retrieving a file, or aid in its searchability. Finally, metadata allows the functioning of routines within a document or file, such as cell formulae in spreadsheets. Some metadata is supplied by the creator or author of electronic information; other metadata is created automatically by a computer. Metadata often is not static—at least some of the metadata associated with a particular electronic record may be modified multiple times and even deleted.

    This post details the newly amended North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure as they relate to the discovery of metadata in civil litigation in North Carolina courts. It compares the new North Carolina requirements regarding the production of metadata with those imposed under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and discusses potential implications for North Carolina litigants. Finally, the post suggests that the newly-amended NCRCP may provide some guidance to public sector entities as to the extent that metadata must be produced pursuant to public records requests. Read more »