The North Carolina Constitution under Article II establishes the Judicial Branch as a co-equal branch of the North Carolina government. The North Carolina court system is called the General Court of Justice. This is a unified state wide and state-operated system consisting of three divisions. They are the Appellate Division, The Superior Court Division and the District Court Division. North Carolina operated under hybrid court system. This was before 1966.
The court systems were Supreme Court (the appellate court) and a superior court (general jurisdiction trial court) which was funded by the state and uniform statewide. The lower courts were operated by the cities and countries. The jurisdiction of the courts varied. One county may be a municipal court and only handle certain types of cases, while in a county a different court may handle the same matters. During the hybrid court system North Carolina had 256 various lower courts. Clerks of superior courts and justice of the peace worked on a fee basis.
Justices of the peace received pay only upon finding a defendant guilty. In 1950 The North Carolina Bar Association appointed a committee the committee on Improving and Expectation the Administration of Justice in North Carolina also named the Bell Commission after it is Chairman J. Spencer Bell, an attorney from Charlotte North Carolina. After its finding the Bell commission recommended the restricting of the judicial system to the General Assembly. In 1962 North Carolinians voted to approve a constitutional amendment creating North Carolina’s present court system.
This system began operating in 1966 creating a jurisdiction of courts of North Carolina that is now uniformed throughout the state. Because of this change cases once handled by superior court are now handled by district court, and many city and county courts were replaced by the uniform district court system, magistrates were replaced justices of the peace and mayor’s courts. In 1967 to ease heavy caseloads of Supreme Court the Court of Appeals was created. The uniformed judicial system created centralization of administration and budgeting of the court system.
Also all court personnel repaid by the state of North Carolina. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) under the chief justice is responsible for the budget of the entire judicial system. The Appellate Division of the General Court of Justice consists of Supreme Court and the court of Appeals. Like the Supreme Court of the United States North Carolina’s Supreme Court is the highest court. It consists of a chief justice and six associate justices. The Supreme Court of North Carolina resides over cases that are appealed from lower courts.
The Supreme Court has no jury. Their determination’s are not based on fact it reviews errors in legal procedures such as judicial interpretation from trials it hears arguments on the written record from trials. North Carolina decisions are printed and bound in volumes named North Carolina Report. North Carolina Supreme Court primary task is questions of constitutional law, major legal questions of legal significance and appeals from convictions dealing with death sentences in first-degree murder cases. The court of Appeals has fifteen judges that have panels of three.
The court session is held in Raleigh but some individual panels have on occasion sat in other locations across the state. Just like the Supreme Court the Court of Appeals decides only questions of law. The Court of Appeals was created to relieve the Supreme Court of its heavy case load. The superior Court Division has of course the superior court which is the court with general trial jurisdiction. This Court sits twice a year in each 100 county’s of the state. In the busiest counties sessions may be held concurrently each week.
North Carolina is divided into superior courts districts for electoral reasons and for administrative reasons. Where the superior court district consists of less than one county, several superior court electoral districts become one district for administrative purpose. An example is Wake County which has four superior court districts-10A, 10B, 10C and 10D-for electoral reasons but all the districts are joined together for administrative reasons with only one senior resident superior court judge for the four electoral districts.
The state also is divided into eight divisions for the purpose of rotation. The senior resident superior court judge is the most senior judge in all of the administrative districts and is responsible carrying out variety of administrative duties and also has the responsibility of appointing magistrates and some other court officials. The General Assembly is responsible for the number of judges in a judicial district this is determined by the volume of judicial business. The constitution requires superior court judges to rotate form one district to another in their division.
Judges are assigned to a judicial district for six-month period and then rotated to another district for the same amount of time. The reasons for this rotation is to avoid favoritism and to avoid a judge holding court where he lives, or might have close friends that are lawyers that may have a particular interest in the cases tried. The rotation also helps with the uniformity of procedure. In civil jurisdiction the superior court is concurrent with that of the district court which means that cases can be filled in either court, but cases involving more than $ 10,000.
00 in money and special category cases such as in junctions, constitutional issues, eminent domain actions and corporate are usually tried in superior court trial are by a jury of twelve. In criminal jurisdiction, the superior court has exclusive jurisdiction overall felonies, misdemeanors and infractions dealing with motor vehicle violations and appeals from a conviction in district court. Trials are also a jury of twelve. In criminal cases, appeals from a conviction in district court. Trials are also a jury of twelve. In criminal cases appeals from the district court the defendant can be granted a trial denovs which means a new trial.
The District Division district courts are divided into district court districts for reasons of electoral purposes and for administrative purposes. Just like the superior court, the district court sits in each 100 countries and has jurisdiction over civil, criminal, and magisterial matters. District Judges like superior and appellate courts judges, they are full time position and are forbidden to practice law privately. Depending on the population and geography each district has two to seventeen judges. The Chief justice appoints one judge in each district as chief district court judge.
The duties of chief district judge include assigning judges of the district to sessions of courts; prescribing the times and places of which magistrates will discharge their duties, assigning civil cases to magistrates for trial; and scheduling for minor traffic, wildlife, boating, marine fisheries, state park recreation alcoholic beverages and littering offense for which magistrates and clerk of courts may accept written appearances, waivers of trial and pleas of guilty. Magistrates are appointed for each county for two year terms by the senior resident superior court judge on nomination of the clerk of superior court.
Magistrates are officers of the district court they are under the supervision of the chief district court judge in judicial matters and the clerk of court in clerical matters. North Carolina like many court system across the country are finding new ways to alleviate heavy caseloads by having innovative courts that specialize in problem solving. The two main courts in North Carolina are family court and drug treatment courts with these courts they are not only the problem solvers but are also the decider of facts as well.
These courts focus on individuals and their criminal conduct to offer solutions to their problems, the problems that contributed to their criminal conduct. Their criminal behavior reflects social problems that may require social solutions rather than legal solutions, such solutions as intensive treatment follow by therapy for a specified time. Conclusion In conclusion the North Carolina Court System continues to exist will have to keep up with the changes of society. It will need to have creative and innovative ways of becoming more efficient in handling cases.