2016 Supreme Court of North Carolina Dispositions

When a case is appealed to the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the court can enter several different dispositions.  The court may affirm, modify and affirm, reverse, or vacate the lower court’s ruling. The court may also choose not to consider the merits of the appeal by dismissing the appeal or determining that review was improvidently granted.  Finally, the court may discipline judges under Article 30 of Chapter 7A of the North Carolina General Statutes by issuing a public reprimand.

I placed these possible dispositions into six different categories: (1) affirmed – meaning the lower court’s ruling stands; (2) reversed – meaning the lower court’s ruling is no longer valid; (3) dismissed – meaning the court did not consider the merits of the appeal; (4) review improvidently granted – meaning that the court decided it incorrectly granted the petition for review; (5) mixed – meaning a combination of affirmed, reversed, dismissed, or review improvidently granted; (6) public reprimand – meaning the court admonished a judge’s conduct.

The court’s 2016 dispositions are shown in the pie chart below.

In 2016, 24 of the court’s 68 opinions were issued per curiam, meaning the opinion was issued by the court as a whole without identifying an author. The remaining 44 opinions identified an author.  This made me wonder if the dispositions for per curiam opinions vary from the dispositions in authored opinions.  It turns out they do.

For example, all appeals where the court determined that review was improvidently granted were issued per curiam.  In addition, a larger percentage of per curiam opinions affirm the lower court.  The pie charts below show dispositions for per curiam opinions and dispositions for authored opinions.

While appellants may not fare as well when the court issues per curiam opinions, they fair quite well overall, with 35% of opinions reversing the lower court and 13% of opinions resulting in a mixed disposition.