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Over-sedation leads to $851,000 settlement  (access required)

A young woman who was unnecessarily sedated by health care workers at a South Carolina surgery center has collected $851,000 to settle a medical-malpractice lawsuit, according to her attorneys. David B. Yarborough Jr. (pictured) of Yarborough Applegate in Mount Pleasant and John D. Clark of the Clark Law Firm in Sumter say their client suffered brain damage as a result of the botched procedure in 2007. The woman, who was 20 at the time of her injury, sued the center along with the gynecologist and certified registered nurse anesthetist, or CRNA, who treated her.

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Judge’s ruling leaves door open to ‘indirect’ lobbying  (access required)

The back channels are open. That’s the takeaway from North Carolina Superior Court Judge Paul C. Ridgeway’s recent ruling reversing the assessment of penalties against former lobbyist Don Beason. In 2007, Beason had registered to lobby on behalf of a N.J. manufacturer of steel products, but not four other companies and a trade association — all of which sought a repeal of the state’s Buy America Act. When a probe by the N.C. Secretary of State’s office revealed that Beason, through intermediaries, had pushed for that repeal, Secretary Elaine Marshall fined him $110,000 for failing to disclose his relationship with those entities.

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ABA study focuses new attention on legislation to allow nonlawyer firm ownership in NC (access required)

The American Bar Association is poised to endorse nonlawyer ownership of law firms, which could jump-start stalled legislation in North Carolina that calls for allowing alternative practice structures. The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 announced in early December that it was mulling tweaks to its model rules of professional conduct in response to U.S. firms increasingly doing business in countries that allow blended law firms. The District of Columbia is the only jurisdiction in the nation that permits nonlawyer ownership.

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Ann education  (access required)

Ann Majestic arrived at the National Press Club in Washington with little time to spare. “How was lunch?” the Wake County School Board attorney asked the audience. “We weren’t allowed to leave North Carolina until we could bring the weather, so we arrived just in time with lots of weather.” She was there on a snowy Thursday to speak about public school choice and integration – along with New York Times reporter Steven Holmes, American Federation of Teachers president Sandra Feldman and Century Foundation Senior Fellow Richard Kahlenberg, whose new book, All Together Now: Creating Middle Class Schools through Public School Choice, grounded the forum.

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Divided duties in oversight of lobbying prompts move to combine functions (access required)

North Carolina’s lobbying law authorizes the Secretary of State to administer its requirements, but interpretation of the law rests with the N.C. Ethics Commission. That division of labor gave Judge Paul C. Ridgeway an additional reason to set aside penalties levied against Don Beason, finding that the Secretary of State Elaine Marshall had exceeded her authority by determining that Beason had engaged in “lobbying” and assessing fines. The result of that wrinkle in the law has been inconsistent enforcement and varying interpretations, as Beason’s attorney pointed out. “The definition of lobbying and lobbyist have been amended about five times by the General Assembly, and one of the reasons is because of interpretations by the Secretary of State’s office to stretch what lobbying was defined as,” Michael Weisel said.

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Procedural victory keeps retirees’ class action hopes alive  (access required)

The state Supreme Court has sent a putative class action brought by working retirees of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division back to the trial court, reversing the dismissal of the case and allowing the parties to move forward with class certification and discovery. In Grimsley v. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, the justices unanimously ruled that the retirees did not have to exhaust their administrative remedies before seeking relief in court and, further, that they had a protectable property interest in amounts deducted from their salary as employer retirement contributions.

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Moore & Van Allen beefs up Charleston office  (access required)

Moore & Van Allen continued the growth of its Charleston office by absorbing the operations of nearby Hagood & Kerr, expanding its presence in the city to 35 lawyers. The deal was effective Jan. 1 All four Hagood shareholders — Ben Hagood, Rob Kerr, Beth Settle and Wendy Wilkie — plus other attorneys and staff made the move and will be located for the short term in the Moore & Van Allen offices on Calhoun Street, until the firm finds new space in Charleston’s downtown area.

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Judging the judges (access required)

An unprecedented survey based on the opinions of thousands of lawyers across North Carolina seems to paint a rosy picture of the state’s judiciary. The N.C. Bar Association’s judicial performance survey gives a big thumbs-up to almost all of the 168 trial judges who will have to survive this year’s election to remain on the bench. None of the 17 Superior Court and 151 District Court judges who were evaluated received the lowest possible overall performance rating on the survey. Coincidentally, the survey’s glowing results were released Jan. 3, one day before Gov. Beverly E. Perdue announced that she had filled all 18 seats on the state’s new Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission, created by executive order last spring, was trumpeted as a historic step toward improving the quality of the state’s judiciary.

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LegalZoom, N.C. Bar scrap over court designation (access required)

Do-it-yourself law website LegalZoom.com is fencing with the N.C. State Bar over the venue for a lawsuit that could eventually clarify what constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. The California-based company sued the Bar in late September after the agency refused to withdraw a public cease-and-desist letter it issued in May 2008, and because it will not register the company’s prepaid legal services plans. If the plans are not registered, LegalZoom cannot operate legally in North Carolina. Alfred P. Carlton Jr. (pictured) of Allen, Pinnix & Nichols in Raleigh, is an attorney for LegalZoom.

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A game-changing challenge? (access required)

In late December, Circuit Court Judge Roger Couch finalized a $327 million verdict against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for the way it marketed its antipsychotic drug, Risperdal. On or about the same day, he also gave another drug maker, AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical, the green light to move forward with a challenge to South Carolina’s action against the company for the marketing of its own antipsychotic drug, Seroquel, on the grounds that the state attorney general’s office had compromised its independence in pursuing the case.

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