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States brief ~ NC Supreme Court rules more civil penalties to go to public education

[JURIST] Leading Friday's states brief, a North Carolina Supreme Court ruling [PDF text] today expanded the number of civil penalties which properly belong to school districts under the state constitution [text]. The court upheld most of a 2003 court of appeals decision [text] and expanded the list of civil penalties that should benefit public education to include late and underpayment penalties on taxpayers assessed by the Department of Revenue and penalties for overweight vehicles generated by the Department of Transportation. Those two penalties together are expected to generate between $53.5 million and $73.5 million annually. Criminal fines already go to local school districts. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • The North Carolina Supreme Court also ruled Friday that the North Carolina Utilities Commission [official website] has the authority to monitor wholesale energy sales. The opinion [text] overruled a court of appeals decision by finding the Federal Power Act [LII text] does not prevent state regulators from conducting a pre-sale review of deals with wholesale customers, but it instead intends for state regulators to retain their authority to assure power plants have enough capability to server customers. Two dissenters disagreed, saying Congress exclusively entrusted wholesale interstate electricity contracts to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission [official website]. AP has more.

  • The state of Alabama is asking the Alabama Supreme Court [official website] to uphold a $3.5 billion dollar judgment against Exxon Mobil Corporation [corporate website] in response to Exxon's request in May [Exxon press release] for the Supreme Court to throw out the judgment because it was not based on facts and was unconstitutionally excessive. State attorneys said Friday that while the punitive damages award is virtually unprecedented "so is the scale of the wrong to be punished and the wrongdoer." In 2003, a jury awarded the state $102.8 million in compensatory damages and $11.8 billion in punitive damages after deciding the company cheated the state out of royalties from natural gas wells. The trial judge reduced the punitive damage award to $3.5 billion. AP has more.

  • The California Supreme Court has ruled patrons who are mugged or assaulted in business parking lots may sue the business owners for failing to take reasonable steps to protect them. The rulings in two companion cases, Delgado v. Trax Bar and Grill [PDF text] and Morris v. De La Torre [PDF text], expanded an assaulted patron's ability to sue as past rulings allowed suits for failing to take adequate safety measures only when the attacks were foreseeable because of past experience and similar incidents. The Supreme Court's ruling Thursday eliminates the requirement of foreseeability. AP has more.

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