Courts Revisited

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Recently, Judge Marion Warren, the Director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, addressed a civic group providing an overview of the North Carolina Court System and a preview of a much-anticipated report from the Chief Justices Commission on the Administration of Law & Justice (NCCALJ).  In his remarks, Judge Warren referred to the judicial branch as the “silent co-equal branch of government.”  Shortly thereafter, national issues shown a spotlight on the United States Constitution, the separation of powers, and the system of checks and balances the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution.

In the next few days, the NCCALJ will issue its final report after nearly two years of study, research, public meetings and forums in which the members of the Commission sought to thoroughly review and understand the judicial system of this state.  Though many citizens will remain oblivious to this report for any number of reasons, it is truly critical that the citizens of North Carolina take the time to review at least the executive summary of the report, if not read the full report.  More citizens directly encounter the judicial system in their day-to-day lives than encounter the other two branches of government.  While all three are critical to our system of government, the judicial branch is often misunderstood in terms of the fact it is designed to be the “non-political” branch and is tasked with reviewing the work of the other branches in terms of enforcing the rule of law and the tenets of both the state and federal constitution.

To find the full report upon its release and to review the work of the Commission to date, visit www.nccalj.org.

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North Carolina Court of Appeals Begins En Banc Hearings

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In the closing days of 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly passed several bills during emergency legislative sessions.  One such bill created a new court procedure whereby a petitioner may now move a case before the entire Court of Appeals.  This is called an en banc hearing.  Typically, North Carolina Court of Appeals cases are decided by three judge panels.  The new law allows exceptional cases to now sit before the entire 15-judge court.  The rushed legislation left practical questions for North Carolina attorneys, such as how to mechanically petition for an en banc hearing.  The North Carolina Supreme Court issued rules to establish the procedure:  http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/html/pdf/Rule-31.1.pdf.  Attorneys also wonder where en banc hearings will take place as no one can identify a large enough North Carolina courtroom.  Rumblings amongst the judges suggest that a new courtroom is in the works.  Regardless of the location, the first en banc hearings should be interesting to say the least.

HIGH-SPEED INTERNET WORKSPACE OPENS IN RALEIGH

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Google Fiber’s communal work space, Fiber Space Raleigh, opened its doors on February 3, 2017.  Located in the famed 518 West location, off Glenwood Avenue, the space is designed to showcase Google Fiber’s superfast Gigabit internet and TV, which is now available in select areas of Wake County, and provide a common work space for local entrepreneurs.  Already available in select portions of Raleigh and Morrisville, the upgrade of Google Fiber internet cabling is currently one of the largest infrastructure in the Triangle.

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NORTH CAROLINA HOGS TO GENERATE ELECTRICITY

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Ground was broken in December on a nearly $100m facility in Warsaw, North Carolina which will utilize swine waste and other byproducts to generate natural gas.  The process, known as Carbon Cycle Energy, will pump the methane gas to Duke Energy power plants throughout North Carolina.  In 2007, North Carolina became the first state in the Southeast to adopt a renewable energy mandate for electric utilities which included the utilization of hog waste and poultry droppings.  If all goes well, the new Duplin County plant should satisfy the 2007 mandate and provide approximately 2/3 of the hog waste natural gas required by its first-year goals.  Better late, than never.

New Year, New Rules for Taxes for North Carolina Businesses

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Those reading the headline may anticipate a political commentary, but we will leave that for those invested in politics.  For our business clients, the new guidelines issued by the North Carolina Department of Revenue (NCDOR) have immediate impact for businesses and for consumers.  The main focus of the changes related to the construction industry is the need to be able to distinguish between a “capital improvement” and a “repair or installation”.  More importantly for most, individuals and businesses which perform repair, maintenance or installation services on real property (residential or commercial) need to communicate with the Department of Revenue and make certain you are collecting and paying the requisite taxes.  The two links below connect you to directives issued by NCDOR which provide detailed guidance and website and telephone links for those needing to register with NCDOR or having additional questions.

http://www.dor.state.nc.us/taxes/sales/contractorletter2016.pdf

http://www.dornc.com/practitioner/sales/directives/SD-16-4.pdf

2017 – A Construction Boom in Raleigh

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Raleigh regularly represents one of the fastest growing cities in the country.  The growth brings both good (improved parks, better music events, etc.) and bad (traffic, longer cashier lines, etc.) to those of us that have live here for years.  City planners have steadily increased densities around town to house new residents.  For better or worse, the growth is here to stay.

The N&O just issued an interesting article detailing the most vocal growth around town.  Check it out:  http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/raleigh-report-blog/article123179429.html

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Professionalism: Does it matter?

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Whether you are a lawyer, a doctor, or in any position with a business, you may find yourself asking what has become of professionalism.  “Professionalism” is a term we hear in the world of sports as players talk about how other players conduct themselves on and off the playing surface.  What is “professionalism?”

To most, professionalism involves treating the person on the other end of the phone or other side of the table with dignity and respect.  It is listening to another’s view and politely responding even when you vehemently disagree with the other’s position.  Professionals understand that each transaction is not a discrete event, but rather a building block in a career.  The old saying that a reputation takes years to develop but can be lost in an instant should be taken to heart.

Most successful professionals enjoy a good working relationship with friends and competitors alike, but more importantly are respected by most (rarely “all” as absolutes are rare in life).  To successfully represent your clients, your employer or your “brand,” consider the image you present to the world.  Are you a professional?

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Presidential Transfer of Power

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imagesThe political world was upended Tuesday, and it is going to be a rocky road.  Yet, once the electoral college confirms Donald Trump as the next President, the transfer of presidential power will happen as it always has since January 23, 1933.  There will be a transition process and then, according to the Twentieth Amendment of the United States Constitution, Section 1.:  “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d [sic] day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”  Divisions and wounds will remain deep from this election, but we should all feel blessed that we live in a country which can consistently pass on power to someone new without violence.

 

“Cary On” – 2016 Business Expo

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Hannah Sheridan Loughridge & Cochran, LLP would like to let you know that we are joining with almost 100 other business members of the Cary Chamber of Commerce and will be taking part in the 2016 Business Expo – “Cary On” in the Grand Ballroom at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary. You have probably seen the ads in the N&O, Cary News, and even heard references on “99.9 The Fan” sports radio, Curtis Media and NPR.  It will take place on Wednesday, November 2 from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00pm.

We are expecting a big crowd and we were hoping that you might be able to stop by.  There will be a free shoe shine booth and a huge number of giveaways, food, and somebody will even win a $500.00 gift card – just in time for holiday shopping!

If you need directions to Prestonwood – just visit www.carychamber.com – and click on Expo 2016.

The event is open to the public and best of all it is free.  Bring your friends and coworkers and stop by and see us at “Table 19” Hope you can make it!

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You Go Nowhere By Accident

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On October 27, 2016, the North Carolina Bar Association hosted a wonderful gathering of leaders in the law who came together for the unveiling of a portrait of Allan B. Head.  Many reading this blog will not know Allan, others will.  Allan is retiring January 1, 2017 after 43 years as the Executive Director of the North Carolina Bar Association.  Allan is recognized nationally for his leadership skills, his willingness and drive to help anyone he meets, and his positive outlook.  Those who spoke and reflected on Allan’s life moved the crowd to tears – some of laughter and some of heartfelt emotion – by recounting Allan’s selfless nature, his loyalty to friends and to the profession he loves.  We, the lawyers and staff of Hannah Sheridan Loughridge and Cochran, would like to take this opportunity to share our best wishes to Allan and his family as he transitions towards retirement and thank him for his incredible life of service to the legal profession.

Allan closed his remarks by citing a benediction originally pronounced by Chaplain Dr. Richard Halverson, former chaplain of the United States Senate.  We thought this a good sentiment to share with our friends:

“You go nowhere by accident.

Wherever you go, God is sending you.

Wherever you are, God has put you there; He has a purpose in you being there.

Christ, who indwells you, has something He wants to do through you where you are.

Believe this and go in His grace and love and power.”

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WAKE VOTERS TO VOTE ON TAX INCREASE

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This past June, the Wake County Board of Commissioners decided to put a referendum on the November ballot to raise the local sales tax rate by ½ percent.  The purpose of the tax increase is to help foot the bill for half of Wake County’s $2.3 billion transit plan.  The transit plan includes a 37-mile commuter rail to link Raleigh and the surrounding areas, including Durham and RTP.  The plan also would expand bus routes across Wake County.  Proponents of the tax increase claim it will address budgetary issues and allow Wake County infrastructure to grow with its ever-expanding population.  Opponents believe that the tax increase will place undue economic strain on Wake County residents.   To read more about Wake County’s transit plan and the tax increase referendum before heading to the polls this November, go to www.waketransit.com.

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HSLC is Hiring!

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We are excited to announce that our law firm is looking to add a new team member to our team!

If you or someone you know is interested in the position, we are gathering cover letters and resumes for a Part-Time Administrative Assistant position until October 26, 2016.

Job Description and further information may be found here:  http://hslc-law.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Administrative-Assistant-Ad.101116.pdf

Thank you.

Don’t Let Your Guard Down in the Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

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Unfortunately, major disasters and fraud often go hand in hand.  It’s happened after every major catastrophic event such as the 9/11 attacks to natural disasters such Hurricane Andrew, Katrina and Sandy.  It’s a sad fact that people take these unfortunate events and the chaos created by the events to cash in on other peoples’ poor fortunes. Dishonest people try to fraudulently profit, falsely claiming to be both victims and heroes.

 After the event, construction always picks up to clean up and repair the damages caused by a storm.  There are very good contractors, but also a lot of bad ones, more so than before. A lot of them are very, very new to this industry, but they see this type of event as a very lucrative opportunity and they take advantage of it.  The most commonly recognized case is where a contractor approaches a home owner, takes a large up-front deposit, starts the work, and then disappears after just a few days.  For suppliers, the concern should be on out-of-state, or unlicensed contractors that need rental equipment and/or supplies.

In the case of home owners, most people would normally recognize a scam and refrain from giving out a large amount of money before work starts.  However, a fast talking contractor preys on the fact that contractors are in high demand and people are desperate to get back into their houses. As far as suppliers are concerned, it’s often a matter of being overwhelmed, as well as trying to help their community get back to normalcy. In times of need, we often give people the benefit of the doubt.   While there is a degree of criminality involved whenever a person enters into a contract to do work or opens an account with a supplier and then fails to complete the contractor or pay for goods, it’s difficult to prove fraud because intent to defraud is an element of the crime.  Intent is always difficult to prove, especially if the contractors makes “some” effort to do the work or makes a small payment on an account. So the majority of cases that actually go to court are civil disputes, and they are generally between the homeowner and the contractor over the quality, timeliness of the work, or the cost of the work.

Here’s some things you can do to prevent, or at least minimize, potential fraud:

For consumers:.

  1. Don’t independently acquire the building permits. Legitimate licensed contractors obtain the permits themselves.
  2. Verify that the contractor is properly licensed in the State that the work is being performed.
  3. Never pay more than 10 percent or $1,000 as a down payment for a job; never pay in cash; verify that the contractor has proper insurance.
  4. Have a written contract, with a defined scope of work to be performed, a lien waiver clause, start date and approximate finish date in the contract.
  5. This seems like common sense, but check references. Look at pictures of work, look for proper business addresses, websites and other indicia of a legitimate business operation. Ask to see their driver’s license, and take pictures of their work vehicles and license tags.
  6. Ask to see the contractor’s proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Follow up with their agent or insurance company to verify it’s still in place.  You can request a certificate of additional insured, which means the company has knowledge of your project.
  7. Check your State’s contractor licensing board website for an active license before signing any contract.
  8. Do not be rushed into signing a contract. Never sign a contract containing blanks; unacceptable terms might be added later. Make sure you get a copy of the signed contract.
  9. Make an insurance claim on your homeowner’s insurance before entering into a contract for repairs. Take pictures of the damages.  Keep receipts.
  10. Don’t pay for a lot of temporary repairs.
  11. Finally, never pay a contractor in full or sign a form of acceptance of work before the work is finished and inspected by appropriate municipal inspectors.

For suppliers:

  1. Stick with Standard Operating Procedures. Do not open accounts or take payments in a manner that is outside of your firm’s normal procedures.  Check references. Obtain additional security or assurances of payment, if necessary.
  2. Ask questions about the project. Ask for direct payment, or joint checks, from the owner.
  3. Be wary of out-of-state contractors. It is difficult and more expensive to obtain and collect on a judgment if the defendant is out-of-state.
  4. If they’re registered with the Secretary of State, look at their corporate status and filings. Make sure they’re in good standing and that you’re dealing with authorized agents.
  5. Similar to homeowners, ask to see the contractor’s proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Follow up with their agent or insurance company to verify it’s still in place.
  6. Check your State’s contractor licensing board website for an active license before extending credit.

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North Carolina Unemployment Falls in August

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North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell to 4.6%, the lowest since April of 2007.  While that appears, on its face, to be good news for the people of North Carolina, the numbers can be a bit misleading.  Although the number of unemployed North Carolinians fell, so too did the number of employed people in North Carolina, generally in the governmental sector.  North Carolina does continue to outpace the current national average (4.9%) and is far exceeding North Carolina’s unemployment rate of August, 2015 (5.7%)

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