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Judge decides plaintiff’s long reply is short on substance  (access required)

Flamboyant speedboat racer Reginald M. Fountain Jr. believes he is plagued by untrustworthy “buffoons” who took over his distressed boat-building company and selfishly refused to return his racing trophies. Fountain, who has a penchant for dressing like Elvis, also sees himself as the powerboat world’s equivalent to swimmer Michael Phelps or NBA star LeBron James. And he has more – much more – to say about these matters. It’s all compiled in a book-length filing in N.C. Business Court, where he is suing his former company.

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Annexation debate focuses on ‘cities first’ philosophy  (access required)

Lawyers for Wilmington and four other North Carolina cities challenging the constitutionality of new provisions of the state’s annexation laws are due back in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday, when they will ask Special Superior Court Judge William Pittman to block enforcement of the new laws pending a hearing and ruling on their claims. While the challenge is based on a specific legal question – whether only property owners should have a say in a proposed annexation – there’s a larger play here. The new provisions threaten to upend North Carolina’s longstanding policy of putting the financial health of its cities ahead of the wishes of property owners, and the pending court case is the venue in which that underlying philosophical tension will be exposed.

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Fight over Racial Justice Act centers on a theoretical possibility  (access required)

RALEIGH (AP) — When critics of the Racial Justice Act recently made their case at the General Assembly, they used an attention-grabbing scenario to argue that the law is fatally flawed: the prospect of North Carolina’s worst murderers roaming the streets, free on parole. Republicans in the state Senate who voted to approve a bill that would essentially repeal the Racial Justice Act, and prosecutors who support the effort, argue that it could happen to convicts who successfully appeal their death sentences under the disputed law. But legal experts say it’s not so simple, especially because none of the appeals filed under the 2009 law has been decided in court yet.

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Landowners face mortgage, title issues when gas leases are sold (access required)

The gas men were coming. That’s what Susan Condlin needed to tell Ted Feitshans when she called his office in January 2010. Condlin, the Lee County director for the N.C. Cooperative Extension, had seen advertisements in the newspaper from companies looking to sign up gas leases, and suspected residents needed help. Feitshans, an extension associate professor in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department, was the man for the job.

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U.S. Supreme Court hears case involving alleged kickbacks from title insurers  (access required)

BOSTON, MA — At oral arguments two weeks ago, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed skeptical of a homeowner’s claim that a kickback scheme violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act without showing any actual injury was suffered. In First American Financial Corp v. Edwards, plaintiff Denise Edwards purchased a home in Ohio. In the transaction, her settlement agent referred her title insurance to First American Title. Edwards claims that her settlement agent was part of a network of individual title companies that had entered into exclusive referral agreements with First American that involved kickbacks that violated RESPA.

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Legal battle between Charlotte neighbors ends with odd twist  (access required)

After much legal wrangling in trial and appellate courts, a lawsuit between neighbors in an affluent Charlotte neighborhood has reached an unusual disposition that will benefit college students. At the center of the suit is a $500,000 addition to a million-dollar home in Myers Park. The addition violates the neighborhood’s setback restrictions, prompting a couple living two doors down from the owner of the remodeled home to sue to have the structure razed. But the addition can stay, as long as the homeowner establishes a $50,000 scholarship fund at Queens University of Charlotte, a historic liberal arts school in Myers Park, Superior Court Judge Jesse B. Caldwell ruled Nov. 15.

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Federal civil trials teeter on the edge of extinction  (access required)

In the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2010, only one civil jury trial took place in federal court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. That wasn’t because of a lack of cases. In fact, there were plenty — 1,780 cases were pending during that time period. The Middle District fared a little better, with four civil jury trials. The Western District saw nine civil jury trials in that period. South Carolina thrived, in relative terms, with 46 civil jury trials.

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New direction, same old fighting spirit (access required)

After spending the past several years as the founding executive director of the N. C. Institute for Constitutional Law, former Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr is returning to private practice, joining Raleigh’s Poyner Spruill. It’s the next step in the career of a man who shows little interest in retiring and little inclination to retreat from the issues that fuel his passion. And one who, throughout his career, has defied labels and expectations. Although a Republican, Orr opposes the use of economic incentives to lure businesses to the state, and wrote the dissent in the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the use of such incentives, Maready v. Winston-Salem. When he left the bench, Orr took that fight to the Institute for Constitutional Law.

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SC bar swept up in a literary wave  (access required)

After a long day practicing law, Wilmot B. Irvin likes to escape to the world of fiction writing. He might still be staring into the glow of a computer screen and click-clacking away on another keyboard, but this is nothing like work. “It’s using the other half of my brain, that creative half that I don’t use so much in legal writing and analysis,” said Irvin, a solo practitioner in Columbia who has published six novels. “It’s clearing everything else away and creating characters and a story and watching it write itself as the book progresses.” Irvin is among a growing population of bar members who are finding the time to write for fun. He and about a dozen other South Carolina lawyers and judges who have published fiction and non-fiction will gather for the first time to sell their works during the South Carolina Bar Convention on Jan. 19-22 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

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ADA claimants find courts less friendly these days (access required)

It’s bad enough for Charlotte’s commercial real estate industry. Lenders aren’t lending. Vacancies are still high. And then there’s the ongoing problem of lawsuits alleging that shopping centers, office buildings and industrial parks are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The way the (federal) statute was set up it was meant to provide a method where it would be easy for plaintiffs to bring these lawsuits,” said John Bowers, a lawyer for Charlotte law firm Horack Talley. “They can sue to have these changes to the properties.” Bowers (pictured) is among attorneys who have been hired to defend two clients in the Charlotte area dealing with ADA lawsuits.

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