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
in the Supreme Court on 13 February 2017.
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
Center for Civil Rights, by Elizabeth Haddix and Mark
Dorosin; and Pressly, Thomas & Conley, PA, by Edwin A.
Pressly, for claimant-appellant/appellee.
H. Stein, Attorney General, by Elizabeth A. Fisher, Assistant
Solicitor General, and Amar Majmundar, Special Deputy
Attorney General, for defendant-appellant/appellee State of
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.
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35-39 (1950) (repealed 2003).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." Id. § 143B-426.50(1) (2013).
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
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).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.
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).
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).
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
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
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.
§ 143-293 (2015) (providing for appeals to the Court of
Appeals from decisions and orders of the full Commission
pursuant to the Tort Claims ...