Sunday, July 3, 2022

State’s chief justice sends H2GO case to a new judge

In the third move that appears to be going Leland and H2GO's way, the state's chief justice ruled their complicated legal case against the town of Belville "exceptional."

Attorneys for H2GO Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer and the town of Leland meet with H2GO board members in court earlier this month. (Port City Daily photo/ JOHANNA FEREBEE)
Attorneys for H2GO Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer and the town of Leland meet with H2GO board members in court earlier this month. (Port City Daily photo/ JOHANNA FEREBEE)

RALEIGH, N.C.—A battle over which political entity owns H2GO Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer has been ruled “exceptional” by the state’s chief justice.

Under the court’s procedural rules, this legal designation is reserved for costly and complicated multi-party cases.

READ MORE: Battle over who owns H2Go heading to state’s chief justice

Going Leland’s way

Belville, H2GO and Leland have been entangled in court since November regarding the ownership of the water and sewer utility’s assets. This is the third court ruling that has gone in Leland and H2GO’s favor after an initial ruling in Belville’s favor.

After election results were learned, the water and sewer utility’s previous board, which had leaned in favor of building a reverse osmosis filtration plant, voted to transfer its assets to the town of Belville.

READ MORE: A timeline of how reverse osmosis broke up a public utility

Once the new board, which now had a majority of anti-RO members,  was in place, H2GO attempted to regain those assets.

Brunswick County Superior Court Judge Thomas Lock in December ruled that things would stay as they were immediately after the transfer, urging the two sides to work out their differences.

In court earlier this month, attorneys for H2GO and Leland argued this transfer left the water and sewer utility an empty shell of an entity lacking political autonomy. Lock found in favor of a request by Leland and H2GO that allowed the two parties to be joined together in their case against Belville. He also ruled in favor of the request to have the case reviewed by the state’s chief justice.

This week, the state’s chief justice signed off on Lock’s recommendation that the case be designated “exceptional.” Such a ruling allows for complicated or multi-party cases to be heard by a judge with experience in related cases.

The case was reassigned on March 21 to Judge Charles Henry, a senior resident judge of the Superior Court of North Carolina. Henry, a resident Superior Court Judge in Onslow County, was selected due to his “special areas of expertise” according to Rule 2.1 of the General Rules of Practice.

What’s next?

Designated as “exceptional” under Rule 2.1 of the General Rules of Practice, this case could set legal precedent.

In court earlier this month, H2GO’s attorney Brian Edes argued this case could be the first of its kind in North Carolina.

According to Charles Keller, spokesperson for North Carolina Judicial Branch, the case has been assigned to the state’s superior court.

“By statute, superior court judges can hold court in and hear cases from any county in North Carolina,” Keller wrote in an email.

It appears it will continue to be considered a Brunswick County case.

“The case remains ours,” Julia McDowell-Grigg wrote in an email, the assistant Assistant Clerk of Superior Court Civil Division in Brunswick County. “However the judge can hold hearings in other locations.”


Johanna Ferebee can be reached at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

Related Articles