No Hat…No Job! The NC Supreme Court Will Have Its Say


I’m so proud of the state I used to call home.

Courtesy of the Associated Press from last week, this is a case that is being decided by North Carolina’s highest court.  I kid you not.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Was firing a state trooper who lied about what happened to his hat justified?  That was the question before North Carolina’s Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Thomas Wetherington, who is challenging his 2009 dismissal, initially told his supervisor the hat blew off of his head and was probably crushed by a passing 18-wheel truck.  He testified that he realized later he had left it on the light bar of his patrol car, but he didn’t tell his bosses what really happened.

The hat was returned to the Highway Patrol in good condition a few weeks later by one of the people Wetherington had pulled over that day. The then-22-year-old trooper said he stuck to his first explanation because he had been reprimanded before for misplacing his headgear.

Wetherington’s lawyer, Michael McGuinness , told justices the firing was too harsh and tried to describe the case as about little more than the trooper mistaking his hat’s location.

“Is it really hat location or the elaborate stories that he told about what happened to his hat?” Justice Paul Newby said. “What he got wrong is making up a story instead of saying, `I don’t know.”‘

The Highway Patrol’s truthfulness policy says no patrol member “shall willfully report any inaccurate, false, improper or misleading information.” An administrative law judge and a majority on the state personnel commission upheld the firing. Two lower courts reversed them, saying the firing lacked just cause.

The legal issue before justices was whether state courts should review the facts behind firings and make their own conclusions, or limit rulings to whether an agency’s decision was rational.

I understand this is a bigger issue than just a hat.

But folks..doesn’t the state supreme court have bigger issues to deal with than this?  I would love to be a fly on the wall in that ornate chamber off Fayetteville Street just to hear the justices talk about a trooper’s hat — with straight faces.

A ruling is expected later this year.

I’ll be waiting.. with bated breath.

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