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Mother’s attempt at a deed do-over rejected by appeals court (access required)

A family battle over a Beaufort, N.C. “home place” (pictured) may have ground to a halt after the N.C. Court of Appeals found that a mother was not mistaken when she signed a deed granting her son an interest in her property. The mother, Janice Willis, sought to reform the deed when her son, Edward Willis, died and the interest in the property passed to his two children. Janice Willis argued unsuccessfully that she never intended that result.

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Simple lease dispute requires high court’s attention (access required)

A simple commercial lease involving a simple mistake led to a simple disagreement. That led all the way to the S.C. Supreme Court in Atlantic Coast Builders and Contractors v. Lewis, where the high court’s justices disagreed over simple appellate procedural rules that ended the case, for now. In a Sept. 26 opinion, the high court majority, applying the “two issue” and “law of the case” rules, upheld Beaufort County Circuit Court Judge Curtis L. Coltrane’s ruling in favor of Atlantic Coast Builders and Contractors in its dispute with landlord Laura Lewis. The issue in Atlantic came down to who – landlord or tenant – was responsible for checking applicable zoning regulations before entering into a lease agreement. Atlantic sued Lewis after a zoning officer told the company it needed zoning permits to use the property for a building and construction office. Columbia attorney Hemphill Pride II (pictured) represented Lewis.

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Chief justice wants to rein in ‘win at all costs’ approach in court (access required)

COLUMBIA (AP) — State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal suggested last week that the appeal of a man on death row for raping and strangling a Clemson University student could be used as a warning to South Carolina prosecutors who ignore fairness and take what she called a “win at all costs” approach. Jerry Buck Inman is appealing his conviction and sentence, saying the man who prosecuted his case should have been removed because he intentionally intimidated a witness testifying on his behalf. The 40-year-old convicted sex offender confessed to killing 20-year-old Tiffany Souers in 2006 and pleaded guilty to murder. A judge then heard evidence about whether Inman should get a life sentence or the death penalty.

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Developer’s counterclaim against SunTrust nets $2.1 million (access required)

A Winston-Salem, N.C. developer has been awarded $2.1 million by a Forsyth County jury after asserting counterclaims against SunTrust Bank in a lawsuit brought by the bank on a promissory note. Donald H. Sutphin wasn’t any stranger to the construction business and he wasn’t any stranger to SunTrust Bank. Sutphin had been involved in residential construction and development for 30 years and had a 15-year relationship with SunTrust. He was surprised, then, when he received a call in October 2009 from a SunTrust banker notifying him that a hold was being placed on $365,000 Sutphin had in deposit accounts at the bank. Sutphin had taken out numerous loans from SunTrust to finance development of properties in the Winston-Salem area. But SunTrust had decided to exit the residential construction loan business as problems in the real estate market multiplied, according to J. Scott Hale, who represented Sutphin.

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Have license, will travel  (access required)

They might not be fleeing dust-smothered farmland in rusty jalopies, limping down dirt roads in search of the next odd job, but a growing subculture of lawyers across the country is living out a modern-day “Grapes of Wrath” scenario. Instead of heading west to find fruit-picking work, these lawyers are scouring the land for document review projects. Not all have hungry children in tow, but many stand in the shadows of six-figure law school loans. Document review lawyers move from one job to the next like migrant workers. Most places require them to have a law license, though it doesn’t have to be issued by the state where they happen to be working. Not knowing how long the job will last, they live out of suitcases, bouncing from city to city and sleeping in strange beds.

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Medicare rules on settlements unite litigators in frustration  (access required)

BOSTON, MA — A looming deadline that will require reporting of personal injury settlements to Medicare has united trial lawyers who are normally adversaries in personal injury cases. Under rules designed to protect Medicare’s lien on medical bills recovered by a personal injury plaintiff, liability insurers must begin collecting data on cases that settle on or after Oct. 1 for reporting to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that is starting Jan. 1, 2012. The deadline has been moved several times in the past three years, purportedly to give CMS more time to create guidelines and to help personal injury cases settle faster.

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Study aims to alter the way police conduct lineups  (access required)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study says those lineups you see on television crime dramas and often used in real-life police departments are going about it all wrong. The study released last week by the American Judicature Society is part of a growing body of research during the past 35 years that questions the reliability of eyewitness identifications under certain circumstances. That research has been taken more seriously in recent years with the evolution of DNA evidence clearing innocent people of crimes they were convicted of committing, often based on eyewitness testimony.

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Alcohol monitoring devices poised to spread in wake of new law  (access required)

Bill Powers is a tech geek. That may set him apart from other lawyers, but he thinks his Bar comrades need more than a passing interest in the evolving technology of alcohol detection to adequately defend their clients in court. Not that continuous alcohol monitoring, or CAM, is anything new. It’s been used sporadically in North Carolina since 2005. What’s new is a recent legislative push that figures to expand use of the technology across the state. Investment banker Bruce Roberts of Brevard, N.C.-based Rehabilitation Support Services was a part of that legislative push. Rehabilitation Support Services’ authorized service partner is Alcohol Monitoring Systems, the maker of SCRAMx, an alcohol detection device (pictured).

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Women- and minority-owned firms: Where are they?  (access required)

Eleven large corporations got together last year and vowed to spend $30 million on hiring law firms that are owned by women and minorities. The spending goal was exceeded by more than $12 million, but only a tiny fraction of that money went to diverse firms in the Carolinas. In fact, Lawyers Weekly was able to identify just one firm in South Carolina that does business with a corporation that has ties to a so-called “inclusion initiative.” And not a single firm in North Carolina has benefitted from the effort. “To this point, we have not identified minority- or women-owned firms in North Carolina, though we would very much like to work with them if we came across them,” said Mark “Rick” E. Richardson, vice president and associate general counsel of GlaxoSmithKline in the Research Triangle Park, which was involved in the effort.

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Attorney’s defamation victory against newspaper upheld  (access required)

The S.C. Court of Appeals has upheld a Richland County jury’s verdict against the Columbia City Paper and two of its reporters in a defamation case brought by an attorney who was called “two-bit” and “corruptible” in an article. The jury awarded Lexington attorney Rebecca West (pictured) $10,000 in actual damages and $30,000 in punitive damages in the case. The Court of Appeals in a Sept. 7 opinion reversed the punitive damages award, saying West had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that the paper and the reporters had acted with actual malice.

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