1. Interlocutory appeals

Denial of a motion to quash or grant of a motion to compel discovery are interlocutory orders because they do not resolve or part of the claims in the underlying proceeding. Typically interlocutory orders are not immediately appealable, see Auction Co. v. Myers, 40 N.C. App. 570, 253 S.E.2d 362 N.C. (1979) and Benfield v. Benfield, 89 N.C. App. 415, 418, 366 S.E.2d 500, 502 (1988), unless they affect a substantial right. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-277(a); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-27(d)(1). It is well-established that an interlocutory order is appealable under the "substantial right" exception where (i) the right itself is substantial, and (ii) the order deprives the appellant of a substantial right which will be lost if the order is not reviewed before final judgment. See, e.g., J & B Slurry Seal Co. v. Mid South Aviation, Inc., 88 N.C. App. 1, 5-6, 362 S.E.2d, 812, 815 N.C. App. (1987).

There is no reported appellate decision holding that an order requiring a journalist to produce newsgathering information affects a substantial right, but there should be little doubt that it does. First, if journalists are forced to comply with an order requiring them to produce their privileged newgathering information, their constitutional and statutory privilege protecting them from releasing such information will be lost if the disclosure order is not reviewed before final judgment in the underlying proceeding. Second, the North Carolina Supreme Court has held that when a party asserts a statutory privilege which directly relates to the matter to be disclosed under an interlocutory discovery order, and the assertion of such privilege is not otherwise frivolous or insubstantial, the challenged order affects a "substantial right" for appellate purposes. Sharpe v. Worland, 351 N.C. 159 N.C. (1999), 522 S.E.2d 577, on remand 137 N.C. App. 82, 527 S.E.2d 75 (2000) (finding right to appeal where hospital asserted statutory privilege as basis for not producing documents). Journalists, of course, have a statutory privilege against being forced to produce information obtained in the court of newsgathering. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8-53.11.

When a journalist is held in contempt for failing to comply with a discovery order, the order is immediately appealable for the purpose of testing the validity both of the original discovery order and the contempt order. See, e.g., Willis v. Duke Power Co., 291 N.C. 19, 30, 229 S.E.2d 191, 198 N.C. (1976) (litigant held in contempt); Wilson v. Wilson, 124 N.C. App. 371, 374-75, 477 S.E.2d 254, 256 N.C. App. (1996) (litigant held in contempt); Mack v. Moore, 91 N.C. App. 478, 480, 372 S.E.2d 314, 316 N.C. App. (1988) (discovery order not immediately appealable due to lack of enforcement sanctions); Walker v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 84 N.C. App. 552, 554-55, 353 S.E.2d 425, 426 (discovery order immediately appealable when enforced by sanctions under Rule 37(b)).

An appeal must be filed within 30 days after entry of the order being appealed. See N.C. App. R. 3(c). The announcement of an order in open court begins the time when the appeal can be filed, but the 30 day time limitation only begins after the written order has been entered. See Abels v. Renfro Corp., 126 N.C. App. 800, 803, 486 S.E.2d 735, 738, (N.C. App.) review denied, 347 N.C. 263, 493 S.E.2d 450 N.C. (1997).

In the event that an order does not affect a "substantial right" and, therefore, is not immediately appealable, a party can seek review in the appellate courts by filing a petition for writ of certiorari. See N.C. App. R. 21; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-32. There is no specific time in which such a petition must be filed, but it must be filed "without unreasonable delay." N.C. App. R. 21(c). In general, certiorari is appropriate "where a decision of the principal question presented would expedite the administration of justice, or where the case involves a legal issue of public importance." Bardolph v. Arnold, 112 N.C. App. 190, 435 S.E.2d 109 (1993), quoting Flaherty v. Hunt, 82 N.C. App. 112, 345 S.E.2d 426 (1986). See also Industrotech Constructors, Inc. v. Duke Univ., 67 N.C. App. 741, 314 S.E.2d 272 (1984) (allowing certiorari with respect to discovery order requiring production of confidential arbitration transcripts).