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Judicial council to study courthouse funding, online overhaul

Bill Cresenzo//December 11, 2019

Judicial council to study courthouse funding, online overhaul

Bill Cresenzo//December 11, 2019

The North Carolina Judicial Council met for the first time in five years on Dec. 5. (North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts photo)
The North Carolina Judicial Council met for the first time in five years on Dec. 5. (North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts photo)

For the first time since 2014, the North Carolina Judicial Council, made up of attorneys and other stakeholders in the state’s court system, has reconvened and is now charged with advising Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and the General Assembly on how it should move forward.

The 18-member council met for a day-long session on Dec. 5 at the North Carolina Judicial Center in Cary, with Justice Robin Hudson serving as chair. The council is tasked with a variety of duties, including advising Beasley on funding priorities, reviewing and advising her on the court system’s annual budget, recommending the salaries of justices and judges, and giving counsel on any other matters that Beasley brings to its attention.

And a key issue this year is money, or lack thereof. Beasley told the council that North Carolina has the lowest per-capita funding in the country, at $66 per person, and more than ever court staff is having to make do with less.

In 2018-2019, the state allocated $558 million to the state’s judicial system, 2.3 percent of its annual budget. Most of that goes to pay the judicial system’s 7,000 employees. 

“I know the council shares my vision for a court system that is fair and accessible and that resolves cases quickly and efficiently,” Beasley said. I look forward to their proposals to move our courts from the most underfunded in the country to the most thoughtfully funded courts. I’ve also asked them to bring us recommendations about the tools and resources our local courts need in order to do this important work and best serve the people of North Carolina. I’ve asked the council to get an awful lot done by September, but I know we’ve assembled a wonderful group who will rise to the challenge.” 

Beasley called the Judicial Branch “a complex system made up of more than 1,000 elected and appointed officials.

“They each need adequate support staff, safe and accessible facilities, and tools to administer justice fairly, uniformly, and efficiently,” Beasley said. The State Judicial Council allows us to bring those stakeholders together, along with members of the bar and the public, to chart a path forward together.”

That includes an $85 million online overhaul to the state’s court system, creating a “virtual courthouse” that will link all 100 North Carolina counties and allow attorneys to manage cases from start to finish online.

“Over the next five years, we will completely overhaul the technology of our courts,” Beasley said. “We must have a unified vision of where that new technology will take us and how we can use it to best serve the people of North Carolina. The State Judicial Council is the body that can help us navigate this exciting period of modernization together.”

The council also will study how the judicial branch can better help those who come to court, oftentimes in dire situations.

“Our courts impact people’s lives when they are vulnerable or in crisis,” Beasley said. “That’s a tremendous responsibility, and one that I take very seriously. So, I’ve asked the council to study how we handle cases involving children and families, how our courts impact people living in poverty, and how we can better help our friends and neighbors confront addiction and mental illness.”


  • Justice Robin Hudson, chair, North Carolina Supreme Court
  • Linda McGee, chief judge, North Carolina Court of Appeals
  • Valerie Asbell, district attorney, District 7; Edgecombe, Nash, and Wilson counties
  • Stuart Castelloe, chief magistrate, Randolph County
  • Whitney Fairbanks, assistant director, North Carolina Indigent Defense Services
  • Jennifer Harjo, public defender, New Hanover County
  • Clerk Marsha Johnson, clerk of superior court, District 11A, Harnett County
  • Judge Robert Rader, chief district court judge, District 10, Wake County
  • Judge Wayland Sermons, senior resident superior court judge, District 2
  • Nana Asante-Smith, attorney, Raleigh 
  • Joseph V. Burns, paralegal, Forsyth County
  • Hugh B. Campbell III, attorney, Stokes and Surry counties
  • Adrienne Cole, president, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
  • Rebecca Sofley Henderson, attorney, Charlotte
  • Jonathan P. Heyl, attorney, Charlotte
  • Quentin Miller, sheriff, Buncombe County
  • John C. Mozingo, Winterville
  • James A. Phillips Jr., attorney, Stanly County

Follow Bill Cresenzo on Twitter @bcresenzonclw


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