What do you think of the courts? Commission wants to know

By Terri Flagg - tflagg@civitasmedia.com

Through Aug. 31, the general public is invited to share its thoughts about what the state courts do well and what needs improving, with a commission tasked with guiding reforms.

The N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ) is an independent group formed in 2015 consisting of about 80 members, coming from a variety of backgrounds from the private sector and justice system. The members are divided among five committees addressing critical areas: civil justice, criminal investigation and adjudication, legal professionalism, public trust and confidence, and technology.

Each committee released an interim report in July based on nearly a year’s worth of study which are intended to inform the public of relevant issues.

“Over the past 10 months, these committees have held 40 meetings where members heard presentations from more than 90 different national and statewide experts, practitioners and court officials, resulting in productive and focused dialogue,” the preface to each report states.

Public comment can be provided and the reports can be viewed online at www.nccalj.org/interim-reports. The findings will also be presented at public meetings held in different regions of the state.

The remaining public meetings will be held today, at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse in Wilmington; Aug. 18 at the Buncombe County Judicial Complex in Asheville; and Aug. 25 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center.

The meetings will be held from 6-7:30 p.m.

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-90, who serves on the commission as chair of the North Carolina Courts Commission, attended a public meeting held earlier in August.

The state legislator indicated that raising the juvenile age to those younger than 18 emerged as a top priority. Currently, teens aged 16 and 17 are prosecuted in the adult justice system.

“I get the feeling that’s what we really might want to do,” she said.

The meeting was “well attended,” Stevens said, naming a couple of local officials who were present such as Judge Anderson Cromer, who will be Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for Judicial District 17-B in 2017, and Rusty Slate, the 17-B chief juvenile justice court counselor.

The commission will use the public input to help shape their final report, which will be presented to the state’s chief justice, the General Assembly and the public in early 2017.

The key issues identified in each committee include:

• Criminal Investigation and Adjudication — juvenile age, indigent defense, pretrial release and criminal case management.

• Civil Justice — technology, case management and tracking, judicial assignment system, legal support staff, legal assistance and self-represented litigation, civil fines, fees and penalties.

• Technology — management and governance, lack of uniformity and paper-based, development, access to services.

• Public Trust and Confidence — promoting fair and equal access, eliminating actual and perceived bias, providing for the just, timely and economical scheduling and disposition of cases, enhancing access to information and court records, selection process that ensures well-qualified and independent judges, strengthening civics education, conducting a recurring public opinion survey.

• Legal Professionalism — access to justice, definition of the practice of law, alternative providers of law-related services, institutions that regulate entry into practice of law, lawyers, law licensure requirements.

Visit www.nccalj.org for more information, to view the reports and to provide comment.

By Terri Flagg


Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.

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