Near unanimity — and bad news for lower courts — in latest batch of N.C. Supreme Court opinions

The N.C. Supreme Court issued not a single dissent today in its latest batch of nine opinions. The seven justices agreed unanimously in eight cases. In the ninth case, Justice Paul Newby agreed with his colleagues in the result but wrote a concurring opinion because he reached his decision for different reasons.

The other unifying factor in each opinion handed down today: Each decision reversed a lower court’s ruling, at least in part.

Justice Sam Ervin IV wrote three majority opinions, Chief Justice Mark Martin wrote two, and Justices Robin Hudson and Barbara Jackson wrote one each.

  • The N.C. Supreme Court has issued opinions in 65 cases this year. Fifty-two of those cases (80 percent) have been decided unanimously, with one caveat. Two of those cases generated concurring opinions in which a justice agreed with the result of the case but disagreed with the majority’s reasoning.
  • Five cases have been decided with a 6-1 split. Four have been decided, 5-2.
  • Four cases (6 percent) have produced 4-3 splits. Only one of those cases (Cooper v. Berger) has broken down along party lines, with the four Democrats opposing the three Republicans. In the other three 4-3 cases, Democrat Ervin joined the three Republicans to form a majority.
  • Ervin has joined the majority opinion in 64 of 65 cases, leading all justices. Jackson has ruled with the majority 64 times, but she signed on to one of the concurrences that rejected the majority’s reasoning. Justice Paul Newby has ruled with the majority 63 times, but he authored both concurrences that disagreed with the majority’s legal reasoning. Martin has ruled with the majority 61 times and signed on to one of the concurrences. (Martin did not participate in one case.) Hudson and Justice Mike Morgan have joined the majority opinion 60 times. Justice Cheri Beasley has joined the majority 57 times. As the most frequent dissenter, Beasley still has sided with the majority 88 percent of the time.
  • Ervin has written 10 majority opinions, leading the court. Jackson has written seven. Beasley, Hudson, Martin, and Newby all have written five. Morgan has written three. Twenty-five cases have produced unsigned “per curiam” opinions.
  • Beasley has written seven dissents, leading the court. Martin has written three, and Morgan two. Ervin, Hudson, and Newby have written one apiece. Jackson has written no dissents.
  • In addition to Newby’s two concurring opinions, Martin wrote a concurring opinion that did not reject the majority’s legal reasoning in the case.
  • Jackson and Newby have been the justices most likely to agree on decisions. They have agreed on the results in 64 of 65 cases. Beasley and Martin have been most likely to disagree. Still, they have agreed in 53 of 64 cases (83 percent).

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...