in the Supreme Court on 17 April 2018.
discretionary review pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-31 of a
unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, __ N.C.App. __,
794 S.E.2d 551 (2016) (per curiam), denying defendant's
petition for writ of certiorari to review an order entered on
20 October 2014 by Judge C.W. Bragg and dismissing
defendant's appeal from a judgment entered on 27 October
2014 by Judge Jeffrey P. Hunt, both in Superior Court, Rowan
H. Stein, Attorney General, by Christopher W. Brooks, Special
Deputy Attorney General, for the State.
Adelle Jones for defendant-appellant.
case we consider whether the absence of a procedural rule
limits the Court of Appeals' discretionary authority to
issue a writ of certiorari. In denying defendant's
petition for writ of certiorari, the Court of Appeals held
that although it had jurisdiction to issue the writ, it
lacked a procedural mechanism under Rule 21 of the North
Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure to do so without
further exercising its discretion to invoke Rule 2 to suspend
the Rules. See State v. Ledbetter, __ N.C.App. __,,
794 S.E.2d 551, 555 (2016) (per curiam); see also
N.C. Rs. App. P. 2, 21. Because we conclude that the absence
of a procedural rule limits neither the Court of Appeals'
jurisdiction nor its discretionary authority to issue writs
of certiorari, we reverse the decision of the Court of
Appeals and remand this case for further proceedings.
January 2013, defendant was charged with driving while
impaired. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charge on
23 December 2013, arguing that the State violated N.C. G.S.
§ 20-38.4 (setting forth procedures for magistrates to
follow when the arrestee appears to be impaired during the
initial appearance) and State v. Knoll, 322 N.C.
535, 545-48, 369 S.E.2d 558, 564-66 (1988) (holding that a
charge of driving while impaired is subject to dismissal when
the defendant was prejudiced by the magistrate's failure
to inform the defendant of certain statutory rights). The
trial court denied defendant's motion on 20 October 2014.
the trial court's denial of her motion, on 27 October
2014, defendant pleaded guilty to driving while
impaired. The plea arrangement stated that
"[defendant] expressly retains the right to appeal [t]he
[c]ourt's denial of her motion to dismiss/suppress her
Driving While Impaired charge in this case." Defendant
gave notice of appeal and petitioned the Court of Appeals for
review by writ of certiorari under N.C. G.S. §
15A-1444(e). The Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal and
denied the certiorari petition, holding that defendant did
not have a statutory right to appeal from the trial
court's denial of her motion to dismiss prior to her
guilty plea and that the petition did not assert grounds
included in or permitted by Rule 21. See State v.
Ledbetter, 243 N.C.App. 746, 757, 779 S.E.2d 164, 171
(2015). On 22 September 2016, this Court remanded the case to
the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of the
Court's recent decisions in State v. Stubbs, 368
N.C. 40, 770 S.E.2d 74 (2015), and State v. Thomsen,
369 N.C. 22, 789 S.E.2d 639 (2016). State v.
Ledbetter, 369 N.C. 64, 64, 793 S.E.2d 216, 216-17
(2016) (per curiam order).
reconsideration, the same panel of the Court of Appeals
issued a unanimous opinion that again denied defendant's
petition for writ of certiorari and dismissed her appeal.
See Ledbetter, __ N.C.App. at __, 794 S.E.2d at 555.
The Court of Appeals held that
[a]fter further consideration and review of both
Thomsen and Stubbs, and under the
jurisdictional authority provided by N.C. Gen. Stat. §
15A-1444(e), [d]efendant's petition for writ of
certiorari to review her motion to dismiss, prior to entry of
her guilty plea, does not assert any of the procedural
grounds set forth in Rule 21 to issue the writ. Although the
statute provides jurisdiction, this Court is without a
procedural process under either Rule 1 or 21 to issue the
discretionary writ under these facts, other than by invoking
Id. at ___, 794 S.E.2d at 555. The court further
declined to invoke Rule 2 to suspend the requirements of the
rules to issue the writ of certiorari. Id. At ___,
794 S.E.2d at 555.
North Carolina Constitution states that "[t]he Court of
Appeals shall have such appellate jurisdiction as the General
Assembly may prescribe." N.C. Const. art. IV, §
12(2). The General Assembly has exercised this constitutional
authority by giving the Court of Appeals "jurisdiction .
. . to issue the prerogative writs, including mandamus,
prohibition, certiorari, and supersedeas, in aid of its own
jurisdiction, or to supervise and control the proceedings of
any of the trial courts of the General Court of
Justice." N.C. G.S. § 7A-32(c) (2017). "This
statute empowers the Court of Appeals to review trial court
rulings . . . by writ of certiorari unless some other statute
restricts the jurisdiction that subsection 7A-32(c)
grants." Thomsen, 369 N.C. at 25, 789 S.E.2d at
641 (citing Stubbs, 368 N.C. at 42-43, 770 S.E.2d at
76). Therefore, "[s]ubsection 7A-32(c) . . . creates a
default rule that the Court of Appeals has jurisdiction to
review a lower court judgment by writ of certiorari. The
default rule will control unless a more specific statute
restricts jurisdiction in the particular class of cases at
issue." Id. at 25, 789 S.E.2d at 642.
State v. Stubbs we addressed whether the Court of
Appeals has jurisdiction to review a trial court's grant
of a defendant's motion for appropriate relief by writ of
certiorari. See 368 N.C. at 41, 770 S.E.2d at 75. We
noted that a separate statute, N.C. G.S. § 15A-1422(c),
specifically addresses review of trial court rulings on
motions for appropriate relief under section 15A-1415.
Id. at 42-43, 770 S.E.2d at 76. In Stubbs
"we were not concerned with whether subsection
15A-1422(c) provided an independent source of jurisdiction
for the Court of Appeals to issue the writ. Rather, we
focused on the absence of language in subsection
15A-1422(c) that would limit the court's
review." Thomsen, 369 N.C. at 25, 789 S.E.2d at
642 (citing Stubbs, 368 N.C. at 43, 770 S.E.2d at
76) (citations omitted). Finding no limiting language, we
held that the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to issue the
writ. Id. at 25, 789 S.E.2d at 642 (citing
Stubbs, 368 N.C. at 43, 770 S.E.2d at 76).
State v. Thomsen the sole difference from
Stubbs was that the trial court granted appropriate
relief on its own motion pursuant to N.C. G.S. §
15A-1420(d), rather than on defendant's motion pursuant
to N.C. G.S. § 15A-1415. Compare Thomsen, 369
N.C. at 25, 789 S.E.2d at 642, with Stubbs, 368 N.C.
at 41, 770 S.E.2d at 75. N.C. G.S. § 15A-1422(c) does
not mention review of relief granted "pursuant to"
subsection 15A-1420(d); therefore, the parties disagreed on
whether the sua sponte grant of relief was
"pursuant to" subsection 15A-1415(b) or subsection
15A-1420(d). See Thomsen, 369 N.C. at 26, 789 S.E.2d
at 642. We held that the answer to this question did not
matter, and that the Court of Appeals had jurisdiction in
either event "because nothing in the Criminal Procedure
Act, or any other ...