NCAE – Tenure amicus

Gray Layton Kersh attorneys Michael Carpenter and Marcus Carpenter recently drafted and filed an amicus brief (or “friend of the court brief”) in the North Carolina Supreme Court on behalf the North Carolina Retired Governmental Employees Association and in support of teachers who lost their career status protection (a/k/a tenure status) when the General Assembly rescinded all teacher tenure.  The case challenging the General Assembly’s action was originally filed by the NCAE and several tenured teachers in December of 2013 to have the elimination of tenure declared unconstitutional.

The amicus brief argued that tenured status was an important part of the employment contracts between teachers and the State of North Carolina and that once teachers had fulfilled their obligations to obtain tenure, those contractual terms vested and cannot be revoked.  The amicus brief further argued that North Carolina Courts have a long-standing precedent (in such cases as Bailey, Faulkenbury, Simpson, and Pritchard) of protecting government employees’ rights to employment benefits that have been earned through the fulfillment of specific employment service based goals.

On April 15, 2016, in a unanimous opinion, the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the general analysis set forth in the amicus brief and held that the State of North Carolina violated the contracts clause of the United State’s Constitution when it retroactively eliminated tenure status for those teachers who had already earned that benefit through fulfillment of the employment service requirement.  Specifically, the Court found that those teachers who had already earned the tenure benefit had vested contractual rights in that benefit that cannot be retroactively eliminated.

The Supreme Court’s Opinion in NCAE v. State may provide substantial precedential value to government employees both in North Carolina and nationwide.

The full case name is North Carolina Association of Educators, Inc., Richard J. Nixon, Rhonda Holmes, Brian Link, Annette Beatty, Stephanie Wallace, and John Deville v. The State of North Carolina.  A copy of the North Carolina’s Supreme Court Opinion can be found here.

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