The Court of Appeals and on to the Supreme Court

In 1998, I successfully ran for the North Carolina Court of Appeals.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with my colleagues there.  The Court of Appeals deals with all types of cases and each one was an education to me.  


In 2000, I was encouraged to run for the Supreme Court.  That effort was successful, as was my 2008 re-election campaign, and now I am the Senior Associate Justice on that Court.  

Your justices work with difficult case that have a lasting impact on citizens’ lives, and I am constantly impressed with the thought and care that each justice put into every case.  Though our deliberations are confidential, I am satisfied that if you could see how hard your justices work, how conscientiously they explore every aspect of a case, how carefully they scrutinize their own and each other’s work, you would be proud.  I love the work, the precision and care that it takes to do it right, and I hope you will allow me to continue.

Additional Legal Service

Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules to Judicial Conference of the United States

  • Only state judge on the committee
  • Appointed by United States Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 2004
  • Reappointed by United States Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007

Chair, Judges' Advisory Committee to American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility.

  • Appointed by President of the American Bar Association

Board of Directors, Judicial Division of American Bar Association

Co-Editor, Judges Journal of the American Bar Association

Program Chair, 2015 Appellate Judges Education Institute


A Few Opinions I've Authored on the Supreme Court

Below you'll find several cases, each with citation and a link to the opinion.

The summaries below each linked case give a thumbnail description of the main issue and outcome.

  • Williams v. Blue Cross, 357 N.C. 170, 581 S.E.2d 415 (2003)

    • Orange County enacted an antidiscrimination ordinance under enabling legislation passed by the General Assembly.  The Supreme Court held that the enabling legislation unconstitutionally permitted localities to create causes of action that were not consistent in different locations in the state.
  • McKinney v. Richitelli, 357 N.C. 483, 586 S.E.2d 258 (2003)

    • The Court held that a father who had been estranged from his child could not reconcile once the child became terminally ill when the reconciliation was for the purpose of participating in the child’s estate.
  • Evans v. Housing Authority, 359 N.C. 50, 602 S.E.2d 668 (2004)

    • A tenant in public housing suffered lead poisoning from paint in the house.  The Court held that the Housing Authority’s purchase of insurance constituted a waiver of immunity.
  • State v. Frogge, 359 N.C. 228, 607 S.E.2d 627 (2005)

    • Defendant was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.  The Court held that post-conviction counsel that argued that defendant had not received effective assistance of counsel at trial could not merely second-guess strategic decisions made by trial counsel.
  • NC Dept. of Transportation v Haywood County, 360 N.C. 349, 626 S.E.2d 645 (2006)

    • The Court held that objective and reliable evidence is required when determining damages suffered by a landowner in a land condemnation case.
  • Coley v. State, 360 N.C. 493, 631 S.E.2d 121 (2006)

    • Taxpayers claimed that the Department of Revenue unconstitutionally raised the highest tax bracket.  The Court held that plaintiffs’ taxable income had not been fixed as of the date of the increase and the tax increase was not levied until the end of the taxable year.
  • Pender County v. Bartlett, 361 N.C. 491, 649 S.E.2d 364 (2007), affirmed 556 U.S. 1, 129 S.Ct. 1231, 173 L.Ed.2d 173 (2009)

    • County commissioners brought suit claiming that the State redistricting plan carved up their county and violated the Whole County Provision of the North Carolina Constitution.  The Court held that a claim of voter dilution under the Voting Rights Act required that the minority group bringing the claim must constitute a numerical majority of citizens of voting age in the district.
  • Walker v. Fleetwood Homes, 362 N.C. 63, 653 S.E.2d 393 (2007)

    • Purchaser of a defective mobile home brought suit against the builder for breach of warranty and for unfair and deceptive practices.  The Court held that the purchaser’s daughter, for whom the mobile home had been purchased, had standing to bring the suit.
  • State v. Waring, 364 N.C. 443, 701 S.E.2d 615 (2010)

    • Court found no prejudicial error in trial of defendant who inveigled his way into apartment of victim, raped her, then stabbed her over twenty times.  The victim died while being transported to the hospital.
  • Fussell v Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., 364 N.C. 272, 695 S.E.2d 437 (2010)

    • Homeowner requested that water be turned on in homeowner’s property.  Agent of city knocked on homeowner’s door then, despite receiving no reply, turned on the water.  The home was flooded because a spigot inside had been left open.  The Court held that the city owed a duty of care to the homeowner.
  • State v. Mbacke, 365 N.C. 403, 721 S.E.2d 218 (2012)

    • Defendant was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.  After the arrest, police searched defendant’ car and found cocaine.  The Court held that the search was reasonable because police could reasonably believe that they would find in defendant’s car additional evidence relating to the concealed weapon charge.
  • In re Ocean Isle Palms, 366 N.C. 351, 749 S.E.2d 439 (2013)

    • Brunswick County adjusted values of undeveloped property upward in a year that was not designated as a year in which property values could be set by the county.  Though the county argued that it was merely correcting earlier appraisal errors, the Court held that the revaluation was improper.
  • Minor v. Minor, 366 N.C. 526, 742 S.E.2d 790 (2013)

    • Owners of real property sought to eject their former daughter-in-law, who had continued to live on the property after divorcing the owners’ son.  The daughter-in-law claimed ownership by adverse possession either of the entire tract or a portion of it.  The Court found that she had not claimed possession of anything other than the entire lot and affirmed the lower court’s ruling in the owners’ favor.
  • Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. v. Cully's Motocross Parkway, 366 N.C. 505, 742 S.E.2d 781 (2013)

    • After a fire at defendant’s home, plaintiff’s investigator determined that the fire was arson.  The police also opened an investigation.  Police used information obtained from plaintiff insurer to open a fraud investigation against defendant.  The trial court and the Court of Appeals found that plaintiff insurance company acted maliciously.  The Court reversed, finding that the police investigation was the result of an independent exercise of discretion by the police investigator.
  • In re S.D.W., 367 N.C. 386, 758 S.E.2d 374 (2014)

    • Biological father was unaware that he had sired a child.  The parents had been in a relationship and, though they had broken up, continued to engage in unprotected sex, resulting in the birth of S.D.W.  The mother put S.D.W. up for adoption.  The father claimed his parental rights.  The Court held that the father’s passivity in the face of ample evidence that the mother may have become pregnant took him outside the category of responsible fathers whose paternal rights in their children are protected.
  • Christie v. Hartley Construction, 368 N.C. 380, 766 S.E.2d 283 (2014)

    • Plaintiff homeowners applied defendant’s stucco-like material to their home.  Mold damage resulted and plaintiffs sued for damages.  Defendants claimed that, despite their twenty-year warrant, North Carolina’s six-year statute of repose barred plaintiffs’ suit.  The Court held that, by offering a twenty-year warranty, defendant waived the protection of the statute of repose.
  • State v. packingham, 368 n.C. 380, 777 S.E.2d 738 (2015)

    • North Carolina statute regulating access to certain social media sites by registered sex offenders found constitutional.
  • North Carolina Association of Educators, et al v. State of North Carolina, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___, 2016 N.C. Lexis 314 (2016).

    • Statute that revoked career teacher status of teachers who had already earned that status found unconstitutional.