North Carolina Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments in two cases at Wake Forest Law on Tuesday, Oct. 4

Photo of the Worrell Professional Center, home to Wake Forest Law

Wake Forest University School of Law

For the 24th consecutive year, Wake Forest Law will host oral arguments for the North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Oct. 4. Oral arguments are set to begin at 3 p.m. in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312. The court session is open to the public.

The panel of judges includes Judge Wanda G. Bryant, Judge Ann Marie Calabria and Judge John M. Tyson. They are scheduled to hear oral arguments for two cases that day: “State v. Bass” and “Hildebran Heritage & Development Association v. Town of Hildebran.”

Hildebran Heritage & Dev. Ass’n v. Town of Hildebran

The case of “Hildebran Heritage & Dev. Ass’n v. Town of Hildebran” involves North Carolina’s open meetings law, which generally requires that public bodies meet and conduct public business in the open. In early August, Engstrom Law PLLC filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, who claim that the Town of Hildebran illegally voted to demolish a historic school in violation of the open meetings law.

Hildebran Heritage & Dev. Ass’n v. Town of Hildebran involves the Old Hildebran School, which served as a public school for seventy years.  On Sept. 22, 2014, the Hildrebran Town Council discussed the possibility of demolishing the school building. On Oct. 27, 2014, the Town Council entered into a closed session and discussed remodeling or destroying the building.  Then, before the Town Council meeting on Jan. 26, 2015, one council member contacted other council members individually to discuss amending the agenda to include a vote to demolish the school building.  Following the discussions but before the meeting, public notice about the meeting at the Town Council’s Chambers (which seats 49) was posted with an agenda. The notice did not include a vote to demolish the school building.  After the meeting began, the Town Council approved a motion to make the following changes to the meeting agenda: (1) to change the agenda item from school building “discussion” to building “discussion/vote”; and (2) to add an agenda item to discuss demolition quotes.  Due to the large public turnout, members of the public requested that the meeting be moved to the Town’s Auditorium (which seats 500) to accommodate the crowd. The Council declined, explaining it was prevented from doing so by law. The Town Council subsequently voted to demolish the school building.

HHDA filed a lawsuit alleging the Town Council violated the Open Meetings Act and that the resulting demolition contract was void as a matter of law.  The trial court concluded that the Town violated the Open Meetings Law at its Oct. 27, 2014, closed meeting but directed a verdict in favor of the Defendants as to all other allegations. The trial court also declined to nullify the Town’s vote to demolish the School and award the demolition contract.  On appeal, HHDA argues that that the trial court erred as follows: (1) by failing to find the Town violated the Open Meetings Act; (2) by failing to find the Town had not provided reasonable public access to the Jan. 26, 2015 meeting; (3) by failing to nullify the Town’s vote to demolish the school building and award the demolition contract; and (4) by finding the Defendants to be a prevailing party and failing to award HHDA attorneys’ fees for the violation of the Open Meeting Act.

State v. Bass

According to Engstrom Law PLLC‘s website, “State v. Bass” is a criminal appeal of a defendant’s conviction for assault with a deadly weapon.

In State v. Bass, the defendant Justin Bass was prosecuted after he shot Jerome Fogg. Less than two weeks before the shooting, Fogg had badly beaten Bass, breaking his jaw in two places, which required four screws and allowed Bass to eat only liquid foods. Bass then obtained a handgun. Later, when Fogg approached Bass in the apartment complex where Bass lived, Bass shot Fogg, seriously injuring him. The jury acquitted Bass of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, but convicted him of the lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon. On appeal, Bass seeks a new trial and has raised three issues. First, Bass contends that the trial court erred in denying Bass’s request to instruct the jury that Bass had “no duty to retreat” in a place where he had a lawful right to be, a “stand your ground” type of law. The issue is whether the “no duty to retreat” statute applies in the circumstances of this case, which is a question of law reviewed de novo. Second, Bass contends that the trial court erred in not allowing witnesses to testify about other specific acts of violence Fogg had committed. This issue is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Finally, Bass contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to continue trial after the State informed defense counsel on the day before trial that Fogg had been involved in five additional assaults involving at least thirteen witnesses and four police officers. The denial of the continuance interfered with Bass’s constitutional right to present a defense, he contends.