Introduction

These interim reports outline the work-to-date of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ).  Chief Justice Mark Martin convened the independent commission in September of 2015, and charged its members to evaluate the North Carolina judicial system and provide recommendations for strengthening our courts.

Commission members were drawn statewide from business, academia, the bar, the non-profit sector, the Legislature, and the Judicial Branch to ensure a well-rounded evaluation of the judicial system.  Each of the members serves on one of five NCCALJ committees studying the areas of civil justice, criminal investigation and adjudication, legal professionalism, public trust and confidence, and technology.  Over the past ten months, these committees have held forty meetings and heard presentations from more than ninety different national and statewide experts, practitioners, and court officials, resulting in productive and focused dialogue.

 

The NCCALJ Wants to Hear from You

The NCCALJ recognizes the vital importance of public participation in the process of court system improvement.  The interim reports that follow are intended to inform the public of the relevant issues the committees are addressing and to invite input and feedback.  To provide comments online or to sign up to provide comments in person at one of the NCCALJ’s four public meetings in August, go to the Commission’s Comments Form.

 

The Reports

Click on the gold icons below to view and download the interim reports.  (Para un breve resumen de los reportes provisonales, pulse aquí.)

Civil Justice

In its work, the Civil Justice Committee recognizes that a modern civil justice system should be fair, accessible, transparent, efficient, and effective in order to meet the needs of, and provide justice to, the people of North Carolina.  The Committee’s inquiry has focused on the following areas:  (1) Technology—including support for electronic filing and case management, along with the development of an efficient rule making process in order to most effectively implement technological innovations; (2) Case Management and Tracking—the development of different case processing “tracks” whereby judicial resources are right-sized based on case complexity; (3) Judicial Assignment—including the study of effects of assigning a case to a single judge in appropriate matters; (4) Legal Assistance and Self-Represented Litigation—restoration of funding for legal assistance programs and improving resources for self-represented litigants; and, lastly (5) Civil Fines, Fees, and Penalties—ensuring that the law and court procedures regarding civil fines, fees, and penalties do not cause or aggravate issues associated with poverty and inequality.

Criminal Investigation and Adjudication

The Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee has focused on four issues impacting the state’s criminal justice system:  (1) Juvenile Reinvestment—reforming North Carolina’s practice of treating 16- and 17-year olds as adults in the criminal justice system; (2) Indigent Defense—strengthening the state-funded system for providing indigent North Carolinians legal counsel in criminal cases; (3) Pretrial Release—identifying ways that North Carolina can improve its system for releasing defendants from jail while their criminal cases are pending; and (4) Criminal Case Management—addressing concerns about case delays and inefficient case processing in our state’s criminal courts.

Legal Proffessionalism

The Legal Professionalism Committee is analyzing North Carolina’s system of delivery of legal services. The Committee is exploring how the practice of law is defined in the state, as well as the state’s systems for regulating entry into the legal profession and regulating the conduct of legal professionals.  The Committee is also considering ways to help the increasing number of litigants who represent themselves in court.

Public Trust and Confidence

The Public Trust and Confidence Committee is committed to identifying and evaluating factors that influence public trust and confidence in the judicial system, and to recommending actions that enhance this trust and confidence.  To that end, the Committee is focused on the following goals:  (1) Promoting fair and equal access to the courts; (2) Eliminating actual and perceived bias in the courts; (3) Providing for the just, timely and economical scheduling and disposition of cases; (4) Enhancing access to information and court records; (5) Recommending a selection process that ensures well-qualified and independent judges; (6) Strengthening civics education; and (7) Conducting a recurring public opinion survey.

Technology

The Technology Committee is developing a strategic plan for how the Judicial Branch can better utilize technological innovation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of court system processes and enhance public access to the courts.  The Committee has gathered extensive input from Judicial Branch stakeholders and is in the process of identifying and prioritizing specific technological advancement initiatives.  Included among those initiatives are the need for a formalized technology governance process, centralized case management software, a paperless clerk’s office and courtroom, improved data usage and availability to monitor system performance, and increased electronic and online public access to the courts for routine activities as document filing, payments, and court dates.

Combined Committee Reports

This document is a compilation of all five committee reports and represents the entirety of the Commission’s draft recommendations.