Section I of this Article reviews the facts of State v. Fly, North Carolina's law of indecent exposure prior to Fly and the Court of Appeals' decision. Section II analyzes the Supreme Court's opinion in Fly and the various rationales offered by the Court to justify its decision. Section III considers the plight of the trial judges in applying the principles, statements, and analysis announced in State v. Fly. Although trial judges must apply the rule of law, and therefore must abide by the "holding" in State v. Fly, this Article argues that trial judges have the same authority as appellate judges to determine what statements in Fly constitute "binding precedent." The conclusion makes clear that trial judges could and should construe most of the purported holdings in Fly as nonbinding dictum because these dicta lack the soundness and clarity necessary to guide the lower courts in predicting how the Supreme Court will interpret and apply the indecent exposure statute in the future. If the trial judges do not exercise their authority to parse the language in Fly, efforts to follow the Fly rationales will result in inconsistent application of the indecent exposure law across the state.
Thomas L. Fowler, Of Moons, Thongs, Holdings and Dicta: State v. Fly and the Rule of Law, 22 Campbell L. Rev. 253 (2000).