Standards of Review: De Novo

by | Dec 17, 2020

The standard of review is a legal term which guides the appellate court regarding the degree of deference it must afford the lower court’s judgment. In North Carolina, a de novo standard of review is frequently used and is applicable where there is a question of law posited by the trial court. Under a de novo standard of review, the appellate court “’consider[s] the matter anew[] and freely substitutes its own judgment . . .’” for that of the lower court. Mann Media, Inc. v. Randolph Cty. Planning Bd., 356 N.C. 1, 13-14, 565 S.E.2d 9, 17 (2002) (quoting Sutton v. N.C. Dep’t of Labor, 132 N.C. App. 387, 389, 511 S.E.2d 340, 341 (1999)).

The de novo standard of review is appellant-friendly as it gives virtually no deference to the judgment of the lower court and is applicable to a variety of legal issues, such as in matters of criminal sentencing and certain motions, that arise in North Carolina cases. De novo review may also be coupled with another standard of review, like abuse of discretion.

In Brennan Station v.. Borovsky, No. COA18-184 (N.C. Ct. App. Oct. 16, 2018), one issue Mr. Hayes argued was that the trial court erred in granting the opposing party’s Judgment Notwithstanding The Verdict (“JNOV”) on his client’s counterclaims. The standard of appellate review for a JNOV is de novo and “if there is more than a scintilla of evidence to support [Defendants’] prima facie case,” the motion should be denied. Tomika Invs., Inc. v. Macedonia True Vine Pentecostal Holiness Church of God, Inc., 136 N.C. App. 493, 499, 524 S.E.2d 591, 595 (2000). In Borovsky, Mr. Hayes made sure to emphasize the favorable standard of review, and his client prevailed. However, each legal case has its unique set of factors considered in a judgment, and you should consult with a licensed attorney to determine the viability of your appeal.

The Law Office of Mark L. Hayes is in a unique position as one of a small number of firms in North Carolina that practices solely in appellate law. Mr. Hayes has represented clients on appeal in nearly two hundred cases at all levels, including the North Carolina Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States. With years of experience in appellate matters, Mr. Hayes is versed in applying and arguing under the different standards of review used in North Carolina and their respective analyses.

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