Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Redmond

Supreme Court of North Carolina

March 17, 2017

IN THE MATTER OF KAY FRANCES REDMOND, by and through LINDA NICHOLS, Administratrix of the Estate of Kay Frances Redmond, Claim for Compensation Under the North Carolina Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program

          Heard in the Supreme Court on 13 February 2017.

         Appeal pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-30(2) from the decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 785 S.E.2d 111 (2016), dismissing an appeal from a decision and order filed on 27 April 2015 by the North Carolina Industrial Commission and remanding the matter to the Commission for transfer to the Superior Court, Wake County, pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 1-267.1(a1). On 9 June 2016, the Supreme Court allowed the State's petition for discretionary review of additional issues.

          UNC Center for Civil Rights, by Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin; and Pressly, Thomas & Conley, PA, by Edwin A. Pressly, for claimant-appellant/appellee.

          Joshua H. Stein, Attorney General, by Elizabeth A. Fisher, Assistant Solicitor General, and Amar Majmundar, Special Deputy Attorney General, for defendant-appellant/appellee State of North Carolina.

          JACKSON, Justice.

         In this case we consider whether the North Carolina Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to consider claimant's constitutional challenge to an act of the General Assembly on appeal from a final decision and order of the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Because we conclude that the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to reach the merits of claimant's constitutional challenge, we reverse the Court of Appeals' dismissal of claimant's appeal and remand this case to that court to consider the merits of claimant's constitutional challenge.

         In 1956 claimant Kay Frances Redmond was sterilized involuntarily at the age of fourteen by order of the now-dismantled Eugenics Board of North Carolina pursuant to Chapter 224 of the Public Laws of North Carolina of 1933. See N.C. G.S. § 35-39 (1950) (repealed 2003). Claimant passed away in 2010. In 2013 the General Assembly established the Eugenics Asexualization and Sterilization Compensation Program (Compensation Program) to provide "lump-sum compensation" to any "claimant determined to be a qualified recipient." Id. § 143B-426.51 (2013). A qualified recipient was "[a]n individual who was asexualized involuntarily or sterilized involuntarily under the authority of the Eugenics Board of North Carolina in accordance with Chapter 224 of the Public Laws of 1933 or Chapter 221 of the Public Laws of 1937." Id. § 143B-426.50(5) (2013). More relevant to this case, a claimant was defined as "[a]n individual on whose behalf a claim is made for compensation as a qualified recipient" who was "alive on June 30, 2013."[1] Id. § 143B-426.50(1) (2013).

         Claimant's estate filed a claim pursuant to the Compensation Program to the North Carolina Industrial Commission (the Commission); however, the claim initially was determined to be ineligible because claimant was not alive on 30 June 2013, as required by subsection 143B-426.50(1). That conclusion was upheld following an evidentiary hearing before a deputy commissioner. On appeal to the full Commission, claimant raised a constitutional challenge to subsection 143B-426.50(1), arguing that the requirement that a claimant be alive on 30 June 2013 violates the guarantees of equal protection and due process in Article I, Section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The full Commission denied the claim for not meeting the subsection 143B-426.50(1) criteria, but certified the constitutional question to the Court of Appeals. In certifying the question, the Commission noted the lack of an explicit statutory framework for doing so. In contrast to N.C. G.S. § 97-86, which gives the Commission statutory authority to certify questions of law to the Court of Appeals in workers' compensation cases, the Commission observed that the statutes providing adjudicatory authority to the Commission here pursuant to the Compensation Program contain no such provision. Claimant appealed the final decision of the full Commission to the Court of Appeals.

         The Court of Appeals did not reach the constitutional question raised in claimant's appeal. In re Hughes, ___ N.C.App. ___, ___, 785 S.E.2d 111, 116 (2016).[2]Instead, the Court of Appeals held that it did not have jurisdiction to consider claimant's appeal from the full Commission because any challenge to the constitutionality of an act of the General Assembly first must be submitted to a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Wake County pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 1-267.1(a1). Id. at___, 785 S.E.2d at 116. Consequently, the Court of Appeals dismissed claimant's appeal and remanded the case to the Commission to transfer "those portions of the action[ ] challenging the constitutional validity of N.C. Gen.[ ]Stat. § 143B-426.50(1)" to Wake County for resolution by a three-judge panel. Id. at___, 785 S.E.2d at 116. Both claimant and the State have appealed the Court of Appeals' dismissal of the appeal to this Court and argue that the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to consider claimant's constitutional challenge to subsection 143B-426.50(1). We agree.

         Eligibility for compensation pursuant to the Compensation Program is determined by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. N.C. G.S. § 143B-426.52(c) (2013). "[I]nitial determinations of eligibility for compensation" are made by a deputy commissioner upon review of "the claim and supporting documentation submitted on behalf of a claimant." Id. § 143B-426.53(b) (2013). In determining eligibility, the Commission has "all powers and authority granted under Article 31 of Chapter 143 of the General Statutes." Id. § 143B-426.53(a) (2013). Article 31, Chapter 143, commonly referred to as the Tort Claims Act, states that the Commission is "constituted a court for the purpose of hearing and passing upon tort claims against the State Board of Education, the Board of Transportation, and all other departments." Id. § 143-291(a) (2015). Section 143B-426.53 of the Compensation Program statutes provides for multiple stages of review within the Commission and an ultimate appeal as of right from a decision of the full Commission to the Court of Appeals "in accordance with the procedures set forth in G.S. 143-293 and G.S. 143-294." Id. § 143B-426.53(d)-(f) (2013).

         Although the Commission acts as a court for purposes of the Tort Claims Act and for determining eligibility of claimants pursuant to the Compensation Program, see id. § 143B-426.53(a), the Commission's judicial power is limited, or quasi-judicial. We have determined that the Commission "is not a court with general implied jurisdiction" but "primarily is an administrative agency of the state" granted judicial power "as is necessary to perform the duties required of it by the law which it administers." Hogan v. Cone Mills Corp., 315 N.C. 127, 137, 337 S.E.2d 477, 483 (1985) (citation omitted). That judicial power clearly does not extend to consideration of constitutional questions, as it is a "well-settled rule that a statute's constitutionality shall be determined by the judiciary, not an administrative board." Meads v. N.C. Dep't of Agric., 349 N.C. 656, 670, 509 S.E.2d 165, 174 (1998); see also State ex rel. Utils. Comm'n v. Carolina Util. Customers Ass'n, 336 N.C. 657, 673-74, 446 S.E.2d 332, 341-42 (1994); Gulf Oil Corp. v. Clayton, 267 N.C. 15, 20, 147 S.E.2d 522, 526 (1966); Great Am. Ins. Co. v. Gold, 254 N.C. 168, 173, 118 S.E.2d 792, 796 (1961), overruled on other grounds by Smith v. State, 289 N.C. 303, 222 S.E.2d 412 (1976).

         Similar to the limited judicial power of the Industrial Commission, the North Carolina Utilities Commission is "deemed to exercise functions judicial in nature and [to] have all the powers and jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction as to all subjects over which the Commission has or may hereafter be given jurisdiction by law." Carolina Util. Customers Ass'n, 336 N.C. at 673, 446 S.E.2d at 342 (quoting N.C. G.S. § 62-60 (1989)). Such power is properly exercised "[f]or the purpose of conducting hearings, making decisions and issuing orders, and in formal investigations where a record is made of testimony under oath." Id. at 673, 446 S.E.2d at 342 (quoting N.C. G.S. § 62-60). When an interested party argued that this judicial power authorized the Utilities Commission to determine the constitutionality of a statute falling within the Utilities Commission's administrative purview, we concluded that "[a]s an administrative agency created by the legislature, the Commission has not been given jurisdiction to determine the constitutionality of legislative enactments." Id. at 674, 446 S.E.2d at 342.

         Although not controlling on this Court, we note with approval the Court of Appeals' reasoning in a similar case. When the Industrial Commission determined in its opinion and award that certain changes to the Workers' Compensation Act violated the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, the Court of Appeals vacated the opinion and award, citing the "well-settled rule that a statute's constitutionality shall be determined by the judiciary, not an administrative board." Carolinas Med. Ctr. v. Emp'rs & Carriers, 172 N.C.App. 549, 553, 616 S.E.2d 588, 591 (2005) (quoting Meads, 349 N.C. at 670, 509 S.E.2d at 174). In reaching this holding, the court reasoned that a party has at least two avenues to challenge the constitutionality of a statute. Id. at 553, 616 S.E.2d at 591. First, the party asserting the constitutional challenge may bring "an action under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-253 et seq. (2004)." Id. at 553, 616 S.E.2d at 591 ("A petition for a declaratory judgment is particularly appropriate to determine the constitutionality of a statute when the parties desire and the public need requires a speedy determination of important public interests involved therein." (quoting Woodard v. Carteret County, 270 N.C. 55, 60, 153 S.E.2d 809, 813 (1967))). "Alternatively, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-86 the Industrial Commission of its own motion could have certified the question of the constitutionality of the statute to this Court before making its final decision." Id. at 553, 616 S.E.2d at 591.

         Section 97-86 states: "The Industrial Commission of its own motion may certify questions of law to the Court of Appeals for decision and determination by said Court." N.C. G.S. § 97-86 (2015). Although this provision is part of the Workers' Compensation Act, and is not implicated in the statutes creating the Compensation Program, it is instructive as to the limitations of the Commission's judicial authority. Correctly recognizing that it did not have authority to rule on claimant's constitutional challenge in this case, but acting in accord with its status as an administrative agency with a process of appeal to the Court of Appeals encompassing a broad spectrum of subject matters, see id. § 97-86 (providing for appeals to the Court of Appeals from final awards of the full Commission pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act); id. ยง 143-293 (2015) (providing for appeals to the Court of Appeals from decisions and orders of the full Commission pursuant to the Tort Claims ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.