Tag Archives: Shannon Fitzpatrick

Business Associations Study Aids

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Study aids aren’t just for 1Ls.  To CSL’s upper-level students, I would like to draw your attention to West’s Study Aids, which are free to use through your student account with Westlaw.

In order to access West’s Study Aids, you simply visit www.lawschool.westlaw.com and sign into your account.  The middle of the landing page provides a box titled “Legal Research & Tools,” and within that box, a link titled “West Study Aids Subscription.”  After you click on the Study Aids link, you will see a page with a “Subject” tab, which lists the numerous law school course subjects for which West has provided a collection of Study Aids, including outlines, case summaries, practice exams, checklists, and other useful study materials.  (Note: You may also access this page by clicking on the following link and then signing into your student account with Westlaw.  http://eproducts.westlaw.com/LearnMore/StudyAidsHome.aspx?navTabIndex=1)  Many of the materials allow you to access tools, such as highlighting and note-taking within the Study Aid itself.

Among the many subjects West has to offer is “Business Organizations,” which provides a collection of Study Aids that may be useful when you are enrolled in CSL’s Business Associations, a required course in the CSL curriculum.  After you click into the “Business Organizations” link, you will see 12 results.  The following list highlights just a handful of the B.A. study materials at your fingertips.

  1. Acing Business Associations.  This resource boasts clear and concise explanations of partnerships, agency, corporations, and other topics typically addressed in B.A. courses.  It utilizes a checklist format, synthesizes major concepts, and offers a systematic approach to problem solving B.A. issues frequently tested on law school exams.  Acing Business Associations was authored by Michael Chasalow and published in 2010.

 

  1. Business Associations in a Nutshell (Third Edition).*  As the name suggests, Business Associations in a Nutshell provides a succinct overview of key issues covered by most B.A. courses.  It highlights basic concepts and offers specific examples to help students understand the material.  This resource was authored by Joseph Shade and published in 2010.
  1. Black Letter Outline on Corporations (Fifth Edition).  The Black Letter book on Corporations outlines the basic legal principles and issues concerning corporations, which generally is a major component of B.A. law school courses.  This Outline was published in 2006 and produced by Robert Hamilton and Richard Booth, professors recognized as national authorities in their subject area.       
  1. High Court Case Summaries on Corporations (Eleventh Edition).  This resource provides case briefs to supplement a student’s reading and understanding of major cases in the subject area.   It includes useful tools, such as case vocabulary and entertaining visual representations to enhance memory and recall of particular cases.  These summaries are keyed to Hamilton’s casebook on Corporations and were published in 2011.
  1. The Law of Corporations in a Nutshell (Sixth Edition).*  This study aid is organized by the life cycle of a corporation, from formation through dissolution.  It is described as comprehensive, yet concise and conversational in tone through the use of explanations and hypotheticals.  The Law of Corporations in a Nutshell was authored by Robert Hamilton and Richard Freer and published in 2011.

* Please note the materials listed with an asterisk are also available to you in print at the CSL Library.

 

In addition to the B.A. materials, the West Study Aids Subscription includes resources that may be useful in supplementing your lecture notes and other materials for many of your upper-level courses, including Constitutional Law, Evidence, and Criminal Procedure, to name a few.  Consider utilizing these Study Aids not only at exam time, but all semester long to enhance your understanding of the material as you go along.  If you fully comprehend the readings and your professor’s lectures throughout the semester, life should become a little easier at exam time!

~ Shannon Fitzpatrick ~

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Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and Plyler v. Doe

On August 14, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners voted on a highly controversial proposal. Several Commissioners requested the Board authorize local schools to “count” children not legally admitted into the United States. Ultimately, the Board rejected the motion, but not without first stirring up a heated debate among the Commissioners themselves, members of the public, and groups interested in the outcome of the vote.

Throughout the controversy, debaters referenced the United States Supreme Court Case of Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982). The plaintiffs in that case were undocumented schoolchildren who challenged a Texas law that authorized local schools to deny enrollment to students not legally admitted into the United States. In considering the equal-protection claims, the Court refused to provide the plaintiffs the protection of a “suspect class,” as it found entry into the class was the product of voluntary, criminal action.

However, the Court ultimately ruled the Texas law was unconstitutional based on other equal-protection grounds. Specifically, the Court found the Fourteenth Amendment extends to anyone subject to the laws of a state. As such, legislation that denies education undermines a primary goal of the Equal Protection Clause. That goal is the prohibition of governmental barriers presenting unreasonable obstacles to individuals’ merit-based advancement.

The Court cited principles from a variety of sources, which – in essence – provide that education is one of the most important governmental functions, as evidenced by compulsory attendance laws and the great sums of money provided to public-school systems. Education teaches students societal values and skills, which serve as the foundation of good citizenship and social order. The Court further provided “education prepares individuals to be self-reliant and self-sufficient participants in society,” so any barrier to education must be grounded in a substantial state interest, which the Court did not find in the Texas case.

In the recent Mecklenburg County controversy, proponents of the proposed measure argue the requested information would have enabled them to “get the facts.” In short, they sought to discover the number of illegal immigrant students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system in order to calculate the amount of money taxpayers spend on the educations of students not legally admitted into the country.

Critics of the proposal alleged the Commissioners who introduced the motion acted under the guise of taxpayer watchdogs in order to rally constituents for upcoming elections. Further, they argued that counting illegal immigrant students could have invited bullying and separatism in addition to burdening children with undue stigmas and psychological damage. In response, proponents asserted they did not intend to remove the children from classrooms; they simply wanted the facts.

Amidst the controversy, a CMS representative released a statement on behalf of the school effectively removing itself from the debate. The statement provided that schools could not lawfully inquire about student citizenship and residency status. Although CMS did not cite a specific federal law in support of its position, the ill-fated Texas legislation in Plyler v. Doe should serve as a guidepost. Most certainly, CMS would have an interest in avoiding the uphill battle it would face convincing a court that counting illegal immigrants serves a substantial state interest and would not present an unreasonable barrier to their education.

~Shannon Fitzpatrick~

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Imperfect Justice and Presumed Guilty: Casey Anthony: The Inside Story – A Common Thread?

In the fall of 2011, Florida prosecutor Jeff Ashton released Imperfect Justice, a book detailing the lengthy and controversial murder trial of Casey Anthony, a woman charged with and acquitted of killing her two-year old daughter, Caylee.  Ashton wrote about his efforts to convict Anthony; how he prepared for trial; the reaction in the courtroom when the verdict was read; and his thoughts about particular elements of the trial, including his opposing counsel, the evidence, and the twelve jurors.

More recently, Anthony’s now famous (or infamous) defense attorney Jose Baez wrote about his experience during and after the trial in the tell-all book titled, Presumed Guilty: Casey Anthony: The Inside Story.  Earlier this month during interviews to promote the book, Baez promised the book delivers behind-the-scenes insights; his defense strategy; and his unfiltered opinions of Ashton, Anthony’s parents, and what really happened on the day Caylee died.

A common thread – and perhaps the only common thread – between these adversaries’ books is the condemnation of the media’s role in this case – a case that required tickets for admission into the courtroom.  Interestingly, some media outlets have published stories about this topic.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2077969,00.html

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jul/06/entertainment/la-et-casey-anthony-trial-20110706

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/06/us-casey-idUSTRE7650HY20110706

Certainly, there are many perspectives with valid arguments and no easy answers.  Nonetheless, the topic of the media’s role in high-profile criminal cases warrants some attention and consideration by the legal community.

~Shannon Fitzpatrick~

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Day-cation in Charlotte’s Backyard

I am new to Charlotte.  Last year, my fiancé and I moved from the beaches of Jacksonville, Florida to the beautiful Queen City.  We love the people, restaurants, parks, theaters, bars, golf, trees, and hills of Charlotte.  But, we are inland.  And it is summertime.  And we miss the water.

So, in order to combat our beach withdrawals, adult whining, and subsequent summer blues, we are planning a day trip to Lake Norman.

One way, and arguably the best way, for Charlotte folk to enjoy Lake Norman is to have and to hold a good and lasting friendship with a Lake Norman home- and/or boat-owner.  If you do not have that luxury and good fortune (or if you did, but have since worn out the welcome mat, so to speak), you can still find ways to enjoy the Lake through a variety of different activities.  Such activities include:

  • Rentals;
  • Fishing;
  • Cruises; and
  • Recreation.

Rentals.  If a Day at the Lake means to you relaxing in the sun or feeling the wind in your hair, consider organizing a large group of your friends and/or family members for just that.  Ask everyone to share the cost of a boat rental, pack your cooler and sunscreen, and spend the day on the water and in the sun at Lake Norman.  For links and contacts regarding rentals at Lake Norman, please visit http://www.visitlakenorman.org/things-to-do/lake-fun—activities/boat-jet-ski-rentals/.

Fishing.  Alternatively, if the words lake and water conjure thoughts of a rod and reel, consider finding time for a quiet morning on Lake Norman, where you can drop a line with a friend and fishing pro.  For more information on fishing at Lake Norman, please visit http://www.visitlakenorman.org/things-to-do/lake-fun—activities/fishing-fishing-guides/.

Cruises.  People, music, party, food.  The more the merrier.  If this is how you envision a day at Lake Norman, you are in luck.  There are many different charters, price points, and experiences available to you.  For links and contacts of companies that charter cruises on Lake Norman, please visit http://www.visitlakenorman.org/things-to-do/lake-fun—activities/chartered-cruises/.

Recreation.  As home to the North Carolina Sailing and Rowing Center, Lake Norman offers a host of recreational boating opportunities.  If you are looking for instruction, competition, and mental and physical challenges, Lake Norman is the place for you.  For information about sailing and rowing on Lake Norman, please visit http://www.visitlakenorman.org/things-to-do/lake-fun—activities/sailing-rowing/.

Just remember, Lake Norman is not the beach, but in some ways, it is better.  The Lake is in Charlotte’s backyard.  It does not require hours of travel, pricy accommodations, or tanks of gas.  Rather, it is just a short drive north.  A perfect day-cation.

~Shannon Fitzpatrick~

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North Carolina Tort Reform: Cap on Noneconomic Damages

Background:

Senate Bill 33 went into effect on October 1, 2011 and significantly altered the procedural rules and substantive law as they relate to health care providers and patients under North Carolina’s medical malpractice law.  (See http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S33v7.pdf.)  Specifically, the recently enacted law heightens the plaintiff’s filing and evidentiary requirements throughout the various stages of litigation, creates a presumption in favor of bifurcating the issues of liability and damages at trial, and places a cap on noneconomic damages a court may award a plaintiff.

Introduction:

The reform has been a hot topic in North Carolina tort law and the source of ongoing controversy.  As such, the Spring 2012 issue of The North Carolina State Bar Journal features two articles by authors with polarizing perspectives on the nature and impact of the new laws.  (See http://www.ncbar.com/journal/archive/journal_17,1.pdf.)  The feature, titled “Sweeping Changes to Medical Malpractice Law – Point/Counterpoint,” spotlights North Carolina’s tort reform through the eyes of two medical-malpractice defense attorneys and the legal affairs counsel for the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, a nonpartisan association that seeks to protect the rights of individuals.

(See http://www.ncaj.com/page/about/?submenuheader=0.)  The purpose of this post is to examine the authors’ clashing views on the provisions related to the cap on noneconomic damages.

The Law:

The reform legislation places a $500,000 cap or limit on the amount a court may award a plaintiff for noneconomic damages.  An award of noneconomic damages would compensate a plaintiff for “pain, suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, inconvenience, and any other non-pecuniary compensatory damages.”  (See N.C.G.S. § 90-21.19(c)(2) at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S33v7.pdf.)  The cap applies regardless of the number of plaintiffs or defendants and to all medical malpractice actions filed on or after October 1, 2011.  The sole exception to the law is that the cap does not apply if the trier of fact finds the defendant’s reckless, grossly negligent, fraudulent, intentional, or malicious conduct proximately caused the plaintiff “disfigurement, loss of use of part of the body, permanent injury or death.”  (See N.C.G.S. § 90-21.19(b)(1-2) at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S33v7.pdf.)

Disclosure:

The jury-verdict form must indicate the specific amount of the plaintiff’s noneconomic damages if the evidence presented at trial supports that amount.  The court, attorneys, and witnesses may not disclose to the jury the existence of the cap.  (See N.C.G.S. §§ 90-21.19(d) and 90-21.19B at http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/Senate/PDF/S33v7.pdf.)

Point/Counterpoint Perspectives:

  • Point:  Katherine Flynn Henry and Phillip Jackson, North Carolina attorneys who focus their practice on the defense of health care providers in medical malpractice litigation, co-wrote the first of the feature articles, “North Carolina’s Tort Reform: An Overview.”  (See pages 12 – 16 of http://www.ncbar.com/journal/archive/journal_17,1.pdf.)  The authors presented the law and then, in a pro-reform discussion on the impact of the legislation on medical malpractice litigation, argue the following points on the $500,000 limitation on noneconomic damages.  First, the authors contend the cap could diminish the amount of cases filed for “certain types of medical malpractice cases.”  Second, the authors assert the cap “makes it more likely that a defendant with a strong defense case will take that case to trial as the limitation on noneconomic damages removes a significant uncertainty about what a damages verdict would be in the unlikely event that the case was tried and lost.”  Finally, the authors maintain that the legislation is constitutional, finding “[m]ost state appellate courts that have addressed similar reform legislation have upheld the constitutionality of the legislation.”  The authors supported this final contention by citing 37 No. 4 J. Health Care Fin. 46 (2011).
  • Counterpoint:  Burton Craige, legal affairs counsel for the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, wrote the second feature article, “The Brave New World of Malpractice Litigation.”  (See pages 16 – 18 of http://www.ncbar.com/journal/archive/journal_17,1.pdf.)  The author attacks the $500,000 cap on two main fronts.  First, the author argues the exception is too narrow.  “[C]atastrophically injured patients” may seek to recover full compensation only if their health care provider either “knowingly and needlessly” placed them at risk of serious harm or was incapacitated by drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident in question.  Second, the author casts doubt on the constitutionality of the cap by quoting former Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. in a letter Chief Justice Lake released after Senate Bill 33 was introduced.  Citing the North Carolina Constitution and two decisions handed down by the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the letter asserts that noneconomic damages are actual, compensatory damages, thus “a form of ‘property’ protected by the constitutional right to trial by jury.”  In closing, the letter maintains the right to have a jury determine the amount of compensatory damages “cannot be eliminated or restricted by the General Assembly.” 

Conclusion

The authors’ points and counterpoints will either prove or disprove themselves over time, but the discourse and debates are sure to continue.

~Shannon Fitzpatrick~

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A Child’s Place

“In 2011, there were 4,711 homeless children enrolled in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.”

“The national average graduation rate for homeless children is less than 25%.”

“Homeless children are sick four times as often as other children.”

These are just a few of the many troubling facts posted on www.achildsplace.org.  A Child’s Place (ACP) is a privately-funded organization located here in Charlotte that seeks to “erase the impact of homelessness on children and their education.”  ACP helps homeless children overcome the barriers homelessness often imposes on their physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being.  Its central mission is to make school a stable part of the children’s lives through its programs and the generosity and support of its volunteers and donors.

ACP’s services include student support and academic support.  Student support services provide children with basic necessities such as food, medical referrals, and clothing.  Academic support services provide children tutors, school supplies, backpacks, field-trip funds, classroom assistants, and breakfast and lunch buddies.  For more information on ACP’s “Student Services,” visit http://www.achildsplace.org/help-for-homeless-kids/student-services.

In addition to the student services, ACP provides services to the children’s parents and families.  Through the efforts of its social workers, ACP is able to provide “in-depth and critical-needs services” for each family that registers with ACP.  Such services include “referrals to community resources for food, housing, job training, and any other needs to help during a housing crisis.”  For more information on ACP’s “Parent Services,” visit http://www.achildsplace.org/help-for-homeless-kids/parent-services.

To support its mission, ACP offers a variety of volunteer projects in which volunteers may assist homeless children either directly or indirectly.  Direct-service volunteers are those involved in the academic support services.  Indirect-service volunteer opportunities include representation at special events or for other unusual needs; general office assistance; and projects for organizations, businesses, or other groups to participate in activities such as packing snack bags, wrapping Christmas presents, and cleaning, painting, and decorating ACP’s “transitional housing” apartments.  For more information on volunteering with ACP, visit http://www.achildsplace.org/make-a-difference/volunteer-opportunities.

Finally, for those interested in donating items such as uniforms, pencils, and toothpaste, ACP provides a list of items its children currently need at http://www.achildsplace.org/make-a-difference/donate/client-needs.  For those interested in contributing to ACP through cash donations, ACP provides directions on how to donate funds at http://www.achildsplace.org/make-a-difference/donate/financial.

~Shannon Fitzpatrick~

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A Case to Watch…

Prosecutors in Mecklenburg County may be the first in the State to seek an indictment for the unlawful killing of an unborn child under a recently enacted statute.  The State of North Carolina versus Mark Anthony Cox arises out of a set of facts that may avail itself to the application of “The Unborn Victims of Violence Act/Ethen’s Law.”  To view the full text of the law, see http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2011/Bills/House/PDF/H215v6.pdf.

In recent weeks, the Charlotte Observer reported that prosecutors charged Cox with the murder of Danielle Watson just over one month after Ethen’s Law went into effect on December 1, 2011.  Cox and Watson were coworkers at the Flying Biscuit Café in South Charlotte, and Watson was eight weeks pregnant at the time of her death.  At Cox’s first court appearance at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, the District Attorney’s Office indicated that it will seek a separate indictment for the death of Watson’s unborn child under “The Unborn Victims of Violence Act/Ethen’s Law.”

The purpose of Ethen’s Law is to create a criminal offense for violent acts committed against a pregnant woman and violent acts that cause death or injury to an unborn child.  The law provides the State with the ability to charge a defendant with two separate offenses for the same violent act(s).  In other words, the State may charge a defendant with both a crime against an expectant mother and a crime against her unborn child.

The idea for this law gained momentum in 2007 after 22-year old Jenna Nielson was tragically and violently murdered in Raleigh, North Carolina.  At the time of Jenna’s death, she was eight months pregnant with her unborn son, whom she was planning to name Ethen, according to the family’s website, www.justice4jenna.org.

While North Carolina is not the first state to enact such a law, the Mark Anthony Cox case would be the first application, on a local level, of a law that separately criminalizes violent acts to unborn children in this manner.  For several reasons, North Carolina’s statute is likely to raise contentious issues as prosecutors argue for its application, defense attorneys argue against its application, and the court attempts to interpret the language of the statute.

One provision that may come to light as the media covers the first case to apply the statute, which according to prosecutors will be the Mark Anthony Cox case, relates to defining an unborn child.  The statute provides, “[a]s used in this Article only,” an unborn child is defined as a “member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”  This definition contrasts with that of North Carolina’s abortion laws, which distinguish between the life of fetus before and after 20 weeks.  To view North Carolina’s abortion laws, see http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/enactedlegislation/statutes/pdf/byarticle/chapter_14/article_11.pdf.

Another statutory provision that may invite media attention is that knowledge of a woman’s pregnancy is not a required element of the crime.  The State need not prove the defendant knew or should have known the woman was pregnant.  Nor must the State prove the defendant intended harm to the unborn child.

Although these legal questions may be left unanswered for some time, the first application of the statute is sure to spark some controversy and scholarly debate.  For the Charlotte Observer’s most recent news story on the Mark Anthony Cox case, visit http://www.charlotteobserver.com/local/ and search “Mark Anthony Cox.”

~Shannon Fitzpatrick~

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