REBECCA HILL, Personal Representative of the Estate of CARLYLE HERBERT HILL, III, Plaintiff,
LINDA DURRETT, Defendant.
in the Court of Appeals 15 January 2019.
by defendant from order entered 9 November 2017 by Judge
Kimberly Best-Staton in Mecklenburg County No. 17 CVD 1275
Law Office of William L. Sitton, Jr., by William L. Sitton,
Jr., for plaintiff-appellee.
Plumides, Romano, Johnson & Cacheris, P.C., by Richard B.
Johnson, for defendant-appellant.
appeal, we consider the validity of an order granting a
party's motion for summary judgment on a claim to annul a
marriage. Rebecca Hill ("Plaintiff"), in her
capacity as the personal representative of the estate of
Carlyle Herbert Hill, III ("Hill"), sought to annul
Hill's marriage to Linda Durrett, arguing that the
marriage was invalid because the officiant - a minister
ordained by the Universal Life Church - was not legally
authorized to perform a wedding ceremony in North Carolina.
Because North Carolina law does not permit a judgment of
annulment to be entered by means of a summary judgment, we
vacate the trial court's order.
and Procedural Background
and Durrett took part in a wedding ceremony on 6 June 2015.
The ceremony was officiated by Deborah Plante, who had
received a Certificate of Ministry from the Universal Life
Church on 20 July 2008. The parties separated on 17 August
after the separation, Hill filed a complaint in Mecklenburg
County District Court asserting claims for divorce from bed
and board and equitable distribution. The complaint alleged
that the parties were married on 6 June 2015. On 24 January
2017, however, Hill filed an amended complaint requesting an
annulment of the marriage. In this complaint, he asserted
that his marriage to Durrett was, in fact, void ab
initio because Plante "is not a magistrate, an
ordained minister in a religious denomination or a minister
authorized to perform weddings." Based on this
assertion, the complaint alleged that Hill was entitled to an
annulment under North Carolina law.
died on 29 April 2017. Plaintiff was substituted as a party
to the action by means of a consent order entered by the
trial court on 14 July 2017.
September 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion captioned
"Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment." The
motion stated as follows:
NOW COMES PLAINTIFF, through the undersigned, who
respectfully moves the court for an order granting an
absolute divorce by summary judgment under Rule 56 of the
North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure because the
pleadings, affidavits and exhibits of record in this action
show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and
plaintiff is entitled to judgment granting an annulment and
declaring the marriage of Carlyle Herbert Hill, III and Linda
Durrett void ab initio.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court
enter summary judgment granting an annulment and grant to
Plaintiff such other relief as seems just and proper.
motion for summary judgment was heard before the Honorable
Kimberly Best-Staton on 26 October 2017. After hearing
arguments from counsel with regard to an evidentiary matter,
the trial court asked the attorneys for both parties whether
live testimony would be received concerning the request for
an annulment. The following exchange occurred:
[THE COURT]: Am I anticipating any type of -- I'm
assuming I'm -- there should -- there's going to be
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Correct.
[THE COURT]: All right. If I could have everyone who may
testify, if you could stand, place your left hand on the
Bible and raise your right.
[PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL]: Your ...