State v. Simpson, COA23-676, ___ N.C. App. ___ (May. 7, 2024)

In this Rowan County case, defendant appealed a civil judgment for attorney’s fees imposed on him after a trial and conviction for assault on a detention employee inflicting physical injury. The Court of Appeals found error and vacated the civil judgment, remanding for proceedings to allow defendant to be heard on the issue of attorney’s fees. 

After the trial against defendant for the assault against a detention employee, appointed defense counsel raised the issue of fees with the court, noting his fee and requesting the court take notice that defendant had been on good behavior. The court did not inquire as to whether defendant wanted to be heard regarding the issue of attorney’s fees.

Taking up defendant’s appeal, the Court of Appeals explained that the trial court should have ensured that defendant was given an opportunity to be heard on the issue of attorney’s fees, and pointed to State v. Friend, 257 N.C. App. 516 (2018), as controlling. Because nothing in the record indicated defendant was given notice of the attorney’s fees issue until the civil judgment was imposed, the court vacated the judgment and remanded. 

Judge Griffin dissented by separate opinion, and would have left the civil judgment in place.