Cases involving a high-profile political activist and a controversial state medical regulation await the N.C. Court of Appeals as it returns to regular in-person hearings this week.
The state’s second-highest court announced recently that it will resume its regular schedule of in-person oral arguments with the start of its fall session. Three-judge Appeals Court panels will begin hearing cases again Tuesday, Aug. 10.
Among the first cases on the docket is an appeal in a 2017 trespass case involving the Rev. William Barber. Former head of the state NAACP and current co-chair of the activist Poor People’s Campaign, Barber was arrested four years ago in connection with a protest at the state Legislative Building.
Found guilty of second-degree trespass in 2019 and fined $200 and court costs, Barber continues to fight the conviction. Judges Chris Dillon, Lucy Inman, and Jeff Carpenter are scheduled to hear the case against Barber on Wednesday, Aug. 11.
Another case heading to the N.C. Court of Appeals that week will shine light again on the state’s controversial certificate-of-need law. That law forces N.C. health care providers to get state government’s permission before adding new hospital beds, expanding facilities, or purchasing major medical equipment.
The latest CON dispute stems from the destruction of a magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, scanner during a 2018 office relocation. State regulators allowed the MRI machine’s owner, the Bone and Joint Surgery Clinic, to replace its broken scanner with upgraded equipment.
But competitor Wake Radiology challenged the decision. Now Wake Radiology is fighting state regulators’ later decision to allow Bone and Joint’s newer MRI scanner to be used for more purposes than the original CON permitted.
Judges Richard Dietz, Allegra Collins, and Fred Gore will wade through the complexities of CON law Tuesday.
“The 15 judges of the Court of Appeals are looking forward to holding oral arguments in person in the fall,” said Chief Judge Donna Stroud in a news release. “And although we are pleased to welcome attorneys, parties to cases, and the public back to our Court, we will also continue to use some innovations adopted due to the pandemic to the extent those innovations improve public access to the Court and improve the Court’s operations.”
Starting in April 2021, the Court of Appeals heard most arguments by Webex, according to the release. The court began hearing some arguments in person in cases with parties requesting in-person arguments. Temporary safety measures in place during spring in-person hearings expired as of June 15.
The court plans to maintain one major change adopted during the pandemic. All in-person and remote arguments moving forward will be recorded and livestreamed online, according to the news release.