By Peter Bolac, Legislative Liaison
The following list contains new laws and bills of interest to the legal profession that were introduced or considered by the General Assembly in 2017. The information is provided for informational purposes only, is not exhaustive, and does not constitute endorsement of or opposition to any particular item.
Provides funding for the Judicial Department (P.330), including the funding of additional assistant district attorney positions and judicial department pay raises across the state. The Appropriations Act also provided funding for the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (“Raise the Age”), and eliminated “Access to Civil Justice” funding. The Governor’s veto of the budget was overridden.
Additional Bills that Became Law
Uniform Power of Attorney Act - S.L. 2017-153 adopts the North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPAA), largely replacing existing law governing the creation, interpretation, and application of powers of attorney. For a more detailed explanation of the UPAA provided by the NC Bar Association, click here.
Restore Partisan Elections - S.L. 2017-3 provides that elections of superior court and district court judges are to be conducted in a partisan manner. The Governor’s veto was overridden.
Reduce Court of Appeals to 12 Judges – S.L. 2017-7 reduces the Court of Appeals from 15 to 12 judges by abolishing the first three seats that become vacant on or after January 1, 2017, prior to expiration of the incumbent's term. Provides an appeal of right directly to the North Carolina Supreme Court from orders regarding class action certification and orders terminating parental rights or denying a motion or petition to terminate parental rights. Permits review by the North Carolina Supreme Court before determination by the Court of Appeals when the subject matter is important in overseeing the jurisdiction and integrity of the court system. The Governor’s veto was overridden.
Criminal Law Changes – S.L. 2017-176 makes various changes in the law relating to motions for appropriate relief under Chapter 15A of the General Statutes, and makes clarifying and technical changes to G.S. 7A-451 regarding the entitlement of an indigent person to services of counsel. The law makes clarifications to the habitual felon statutes, habitual impaired driving statutes, and habitual breaking and entering statutes. The law also addresses fingerprinting defendants, Citizen’s Warrants, and the Sheriff’s Supplemental Pension Fund.
Electoral Freedom Act of 2017 – Among other electoral changes, S.L. 2017-214 eliminates primary elections for all justices and judges of the Courts in 2018. The Governor’s veto was overridden.
Workers' Comp/Disputed Legal Fees – Among other changes, S.L. 2017-124 requires the Industrial Commission to provide notice to an injured worker's current and previous attorneys of record if there is a dispute over the division of the fee between the attorneys.
NCAOC Omnibus Bill - S.L. 2017-158 makes numerous changes to law governing the administration of the General Courts of Justice.
Various Clarifying Changes – Among other changes, S.L. 2017-206 prohibits a lawyer who serves as a trustee from representing noteholders or borrowers while initiating a foreclosure proceeding. The Governor’s veto (unrelated to this section) was overridden.
Expungement Process Modifications - S.L. 2017-195 makes modifications to the various expunction statutes.
Bills Eligible for Consideration in the 2018 “Short Session”
Note: These bills are eligible for consideration in the 2018 short session. Inclusion on this list does not imply that a bill will be considered.
Judicial Redistricting and Investment Act (H717) – Passed House. The bill is currently under consideration in the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting. H717 would revise Judicial Districts as shown in maps provided here.
NOTE: The most recent judicial redistricting proposal from the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting can be found on the committee website:
Increase Voter Accountability of Judges (S698) – An act to amend the constitution to create two-year terms of office for all justices and judges.
Forfeiture of Retirement Benefits (H160) – Prohibits retirement benefits for judges who have been impeached and convicted or removed from office.
GA Appoint for District Court Vacancies (H240) – Shifts the authority to fill district court vacancies from the Governor to the General Assembly.
GA Appoint for Special Superior Court Judges (H241) – Shifts the authority to appoint special superior court judges from the Governor to the General Assembly.
Vacancies/NC Sup Ct/ Ct of App/ Superior Ct/DAs (H335) – Clarifies the manner in which vacancies are filled for Supreme Court justices, judges of the Court of Appeals and Superior Court, and District Attorneys.
Amend who can serve on a three judge panel (H677) – Provides that district court judges may be appointed to serve on three-judge panels for actions challenging the validity of acts of the General Assembly.
Landlord/Tenant – Alias & Pluries Summary Ejectment (H706) – Allows for severance of summary ejectment and monetary claims when service of process doesn’t meet certain standards.
Amend Arson Law (H325) – Modifies and strengthens the criminal laws regarding arson.
Bills that were Introduced but did Not Pass Either Body (“Did Not Cross Over”)
Note: These bills are not eligible for consideration in the 2018 short session; however, the substance of any of these bills could be inserted into a bill that is eligible for consideration during the short session.
S605 – Attorney Options/ IOLTA Funds
S633 – Reduce Annual State Bar Fees
S250 – Judicial Standards Commission
S617 – Eliminate Emergency Recall Judges (Addressed in Budget)
S636 – Increase Judicial Pay 20%
S433 – Limit who may advertise/Adoption Laws
S457 – Amend Deferred Prosecution Statute
S613 – Attorney’s Fees and Costs/State Prevails
H126 – Conduct and Discipline for Magistrates
H674 – Independent Redistricting Commission
H675 – Clerk of Court notifies AOC if court ends early
H676 – Special Superior Court Judge Assignments
H122 – Discovery Not Disseminated to Defendant
H124 - Courts Commission Study Judicial Districts
H129 – NC LEAF Funds
H645 – Legal Services Rendered for Nonprofits
H918 – Post Crime on Social Media/Enhanced Sentence