Professor John Korzen (BA ’81, JD ’91) argues in North Carolina Court of Appeals

Photo of Professor John Korzen

John Korzen, who heads the Appellate Advocacy Clinic and teaches Legal Writing and Business Drafting, is an experienced appellate lawyer.

Professor John Korzen (BA ’81, JD ’91) argued on Nov. 4 in the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Raleigh, in the case of Town of Beech Mountain v. Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc. Defendant Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc. (Genesis) is a client of the Appellate Advocacy Clinic that Professor Korzen directs. Genesis is a non-profit organization whose mission is to care for injured and orphaned wildlife and to educate the public about wildlife.

In 2012, the Town of Beech Mountain brought a summary ejectment action against Genesis based on unfounded allegations that Genesis had breached a lease of Town property. Genesis removed the action from small claims court to superior court, moved for summary judgment and also counterclaimed. In September 2014, the superior court granted Genesis’s motion for summary judgment on the Town’s breach of lease claim, and a jury decided in favor of Genesis’s counterclaim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that the Town had violated its rights to substantive due process in enacting and enforcing an ordinance that prohibited Genesis from housing any animals on its property.

The Town brought two appeals, one from the summary judgment against its breach of lease claim and one from the final judgment following the jury verdict in favor of Genesis on its substantive due process claim. The Town raised a total of 12 issues in the two appeals. On appeal, the trial attorneys for Genesis, Charles Clement (JD ’64) and Charles Brady (JD ’81) of the Clement Law Office in Boone, North Carolina, retained the Appellate Advocacy Clinic. Brady had also retained the Appellate Advocacy Clinic several years ago in a different matter.

Appellate Advocacy Clinic students usually make the oral arguments in Clinic appeals, but in these cases Professor Korzen was already familiar with the 12 issues from having briefed them over the summer, when Clinic students were unavailable.

The panel that heard oral argument consisted of Judge Martha A. Geer; Judge Robert N. Hunter, Jr.; and Judge Chris Dillon. Appellate Clinic members Taylor Ey (JD ’16), Don Morgan (JD ’16), and Kaitlin Price (JD ’16) attended the argument. Ey had interned with the Court of Appeals in the summer after her 1L year, while Price had interned with the Court in the summer after her 2L year.  Appellate Clinic member Rolf Garcia-Gallont (JD ’16) provided helpful supplemental research that Korzen submitted to the Court on Oct. 27. At oral argument, Judge Geer asked the Town’s counsel several questions about that supplemental authority, which showed that Fourth Circuit decisions the Town had relied on regarding section 1983 are inconsistent with North Carolina law.

Seven Beech Mountain residents, including the founder of Genesis and several members of its Board of Directors, also attended the oral argument. A decision is expected in approximately three months, Professor Korzen said.