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Occupy movement a practice run for next year’s Dem convention (access required)

From the SWAT team raid on protesters in Chapel Hill, N.C., to the sudden crackdown at the State House grounds in Columbia, S.C., to violent riots in California and the clearing of campers at the epicenter of the movement in New York City, the Occupy protest and the government’s pushback is intensifying. Some believe the protests are a preseason tune-up for next year’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and the Republican National Convention in Tampa. They expect the already-heated Occupy action to be replicated on a much larger scale during the conventions.

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Family Dollar chain hopes to benefit from Wal-Mart ruling (access required)

A class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against the Carolina-based Family Dollar chain of discount stores has been lingering in the U.S. District Court in Charlotte since 2008, but the case will reach a crossroads this week. At issue is whether the plaintiffs in Scott v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc. should be allowed to change their original complaint in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling earlier this year in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. will hear arguments Nov. 22 on the plaintiffs’ motion to amend and the defense’s motion to dismiss the class action. The fate of the case essentially hangs in the balance of Cogburn’s ruling.

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Many questions, few answers in home lawsuit (access required)

Ignorance of the law is no defense. But how about the facts? How long, for example, can a lender feign ignorance of the facts and collect on a mortgage loan after the underlying debt has been satisfied by a deed in lieu of foreclosure? The answer: As long as the borrower continues to pay, U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. held recently in Martin v. American General Finance Inc., a case that aptly depicts the confusion resulting when a note and mortgage go their separate ways. In 1993, Melinda Martin and her husband bought a three-bedroom house in Winnsboro at a foreclosure sale. In 1996, they took out a mortgage with First Family Financial Services. In 1999 they executed a deed in lieu of foreclosure to First Family, which First Family then filed with the county clerk.

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Drunk-driver monitoring firm inadvertently loses customer information (access required)

Morrisville-based Monitech Inc., North Carolina’s sole provider of the breath alcohol ignition interlock devices used by some drivers convicted of drunk driving, has reported a data breach affecting 49,000 state residents. In a notice mailed to those customers and posted on the company’s website, the company disclosed that a laptop computer had been stolen from a service vehicle in New Hanover County on September 9. The computer contained the names of Monitech customers in North Carolina and other information, including addresses, dates of birth, vehicle identification numbers, and license and plate numbers. It did not, however, contain Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers “or other financial information typically used by identity thieves,” the company said on its website.

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N.C.’s heart-balm torts face constitutional challenge (access required)

North Carolina is one of the last places in the country where jilted spouses can sue home-wreckers, but the state’s controversial torts of alienation of affections and criminal conversation are facing a new constitutional attack. Winston-Salem attorneys John F. Morrow Sr. and John C. Vermitsky of Morrow Porter Vermitsky & Fowler argue in Filipowski v. Oliver that so-called “heart-balm” lawsuits violate the defendant’s right to free speech and privacy, and should be abolished. They represent Melissa Oliver, who is being sued by Veronica Filipowski for criminal conversation for allegedly sleeping with Filipowski’s husband, and for alienation of affections for ruining the marriage.

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4th Circuit upholds blanket ban on political donations (access required)

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down an unprecedented constitutional challenge to a North Carolina law that bars lobbyists from giving money to political candidates seeking state office. The Nov. 7 decision in Preston v. Leake delves into the murky First Amendment implications of political contributions as gestures of free speech and follows in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

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On whose dime? (access required)

As the gavel comes down in the South Carolina Supreme Court today, onlookers might do a double-take when looking at the counsel table. It will be an unlikely sight: Republicans and Democrats sitting on the same side. In a rare showing of bipartisanship, the parties have aligned to fight a challenge by South Carolina counties to the state’s upcoming first-in-the-South 2012 presidential primaries. What unites the two political parties is their desire to have state and county election commissions run their presidential primaries, using taxpayer money.

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When prayer alone doesn’t work, hire a lawyer   (access required)

It’s been more than five years since Sedgefield Baptist Church first learned that a six-lane roadway might be passing through its sanctuary. That’s when the North Carolina Department of Transportation first approached the church on High Point Road in Greensboro and told its elders about plans to widen the road. The DOT offered $950,000 for the church to move on — fair market value, it said, according to its appraisal. The church, which had been there since the 1950s, said no thanks. The DOT moved on to other projects, but last year it returned with an updated appraisal and the news that the church would have to vacate by October 2011. This time the offer was $960,250.

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First a rancher, then a lawyer – now a writer   (access required)

Jamie Lisa Forbes knows tough. She was a rancher in Wyoming, raising two kids and 350 head of cattle on 23,000 acres. The winters were brutal, the summers searing, the tending unending. She also is undaunted by intellectual wrangling. After a divorce, she sold the ranch near Laramie she helped run for 15 years, moved to North Carolina and entered law school at age 48. Now, at 56, she is forging her second career as a lawyer working on her own in Greensboro with a focus on estates, family law, workers’ compensation and general litigation. Yet for all that, her most challenging work has been facing a blank computer screen. The rancher-turned-lawyer wanted to be one more thing: a writer. She mastered that as well.

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U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with limits of privacy in the age of technology (access required)

In a case that had the justices questioning just how far the expectation of privacy extends in a world of ever-evolving technologies, the U.S. Supreme Court considered last week whether the police’s use of a warrantless GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car violated the Fourth Amendment. There is a chance that the justices could rule broadly on the issue. For example, the court could hold that the installation of the device did not even constitute a search, allowing the court to skip the expectation-of-privacy analysis altogether. But at oral arguments, the justices seemed to go the opposite route, considering in detail the implications of a world where information from high-tech devices could be used by the government to track individuals’ every move.

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