Scott Gaylord featured in North Carolina Lawyers Weekly
After highlighting a recent decrease in North Carolina Supreme Court decisions, Elon Law professor Scott Gaylord has sparked dialogue in the North Carolina legal community. The October 29 edition of North Carolina Lawyers Weekly addresses concerns raised by Gaylord in his article, "The North Carolina Supreme Court in 2010: Is it Time for Reform," which was published by The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies on October 26.
Gaylord’s article published by the Federalist Society explores the decline in the number of cases decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court in recent years, the potential impacts of that decline for legal clarity in the state, and the importance of published court decisions for the public in states where judges are selected through elections.
In addition to a University of Chicago report, finding that between 1998 and 2000 the N.C. Supreme Court handed down 262 opinions, Gaylord's research showed that from 2007 to 2009 the justices issued only 115 opinions, an average of just over five opinions per justice per year. Likewise, a North Carolina Lawyers Weekly review showed that the number of published opinions, not including most one-page per curiam decisions, declined from 56 in the calendar year 1999 to 34 in 2009.
"Are there institutional problems that are preventing them from deciding more cases?" Gaylord asked in the North Carolina Lawyers Weekly article. "Is there something that we as a state should be addressing?"
North Carolina Lawyers Weekly also reported that John W. Smith, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, believes the volume of opinions issued by the court is not what is important. Instead, he said the focus should be on making sure that the cases deserving appellate review are decided in a “timely and appropriate way,” which Smith contends is currently happening in the North Carolina courts.
North Carolina Lawyers Weekly reported the opinions of a number of lawyers in the state on the matter as well. While people such as Jonathan McGirt, a family law practitioner whose work is mainly appellate, said he hasn't noticed a big fall-off in written opinions and that the limited number of Supreme Court opinions may be the result of quality work by the Court of Appeals, others like Jack Cummings, a tax attorney in Raleigh, expressed concern about the lack of corporate tax law cases decided by the high court in recent years.
The article also noted that former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, who is now the executive director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, is concerned about the limited number of petitions that that North Carolina Supreme Court is accepting that involve constitutional issues and that he is currently writing on that matter for Campbell University's law review.
Click here to read more about Gaylord’s white paper published by The Federalist Society online.
Click here for more information about Scott Gaylord.
By Danielle Appelman, L'12