Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 28, 2011

NC Appeals Court Rules Judge Not Biased and Prejudicial Over Plans to Erect County Jail

The Board of Commissioners acquired land and designated it for a new county jail.  The County filed a Petition for Zoning Amendment seeking to have the property rezoned to Manufacturing-Industrial One: Conditional.  The Planning Board recommended approval to the Board of Commissioners and after a public hearing they voted to approve rezoning. Plaintiffs filed a complaint and defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which a judge granted except as to plaintiff’s claim for declaratory judgment that the rezoning violated zoning laws and ordinances.  Included in a series of motions, Plaintiffs moved for recusal of the judge assigned to hear the motions for summary judgment, alleging that he had extensive prior involvement in the county jail issue and that made it inappropriate for him to decide the question of summary judgment. Plaintiffs further alleged that the judge was biased and prejudicial particularly when he entered two Orders to Show Cause.  The North Carolina Appeals Court disagreed, stating that while the judge may have desired a prompt resolution of the jail issue, there was nothing to indicate that his desire to reach a quick resolution was due to personal bias. The Court said that the Judge’s “attempt to ensure that the construction moved forward ‘with all deliberate speed’ can hardly be interpreted as an attempt…to have the jail built without any delay and without regard for the requirements of ‘laws of the state.’”  Further, the Court noted that the there was nothing in the orders that evinced and evidence that the Judge had any preference or opinion as to the location of the new jail.

Sapp v. Yadkin County, 2011 WL 294045 (N.C. App. 2/1/2011)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=MjAxMS8wOS0xNzI1LTEucGRm


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