The Mecklenburg County Bar and Mecklenburg Bar Foundation held their annual leadership luncheon on December 14, 2017. We invited state and federal judges to attend to give us an update on the state of our local courts. With thanks to Judges Albert Diaz, W. Robert Bell, and Regan A. Miller, here is a summary of their reports. Any errors are strictly mine.
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Albert Diaz, reporting for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals:
- There will soon be two vacancies on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: Judge William B. Traxler, Jr. and Judge Dennis W. Shedd will be taking senior status within the next year.
- The Charlotte federal courthouse’s planned expansion will include an 8 story annex. The goal is substantial completion by 2020.
- W.D.N.C. District Judge Richard Voorhees is on senior status and there is no word yet on the nominee to fill that vacancy.
- On December 19, 2017, Andrew Murray will be sworn in as the U.S. Attorney for the W.D.N.C.
- Anthony Martinez is the Federal Defender for the W.D.N.C. He recently arrived from Tennessee and brings 30+ years of federal defender experience.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge W. Robert Bell, reporting for the Mecklenburg County Superior Court:
- Longtime Trial Court Administrator Todd Nuccio recently retired, and the Court has welcomed Charleston Carter, from Tifton, Georgia, as the new Trial Court Administrator.
- Judge Linwood Foust retired on October 30, 2017, and Judge Yvonne Mims Evans has announced her retirement effective December 31, 2017, leaving two vacancies for Governor Roy Cooper to fill by appointment.
- These changes have presented a challenge in getting the court’s work done at its usual pace, but the Superior Court bench – seven resident judges, one special judge, two Business Court judges – is up to the task.
- There is a pending proposed North Carolina constitutional amendment, possibly on a May ballot, regarding merit selection of judges, but the details are in flux.
- State judicial districts have been redrawn. Typically, judicial candidates file in January, but that has been suspended for now, and no one knows when filing will start.
- There are many proposals affecting our state courts, but at this point it is difficult to predict how any of them will be handled in the legislative process.
Chief District Court Judge Regan A. Miller, reporting for the Mecklenburg County District Court:
- The Court has welcomed its newest District Court Judge, Tracy Hewett, appointed by Gov. Cooper earlier this year.
- The criminal court was recently awarded a $2 million MacArthur grant to engage in practices to address the local jail population.
- The criminal court is using a risk assessment tool at first appearances, as one of many factors in deciding who poses a risk to public safety or is at risk for not timely appearing in court.
- The Court will soon enter a new Administrative Order regarding those charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor.
- House Bill 717 is in the Senate, and currently proposes to reduce Mecklenburg County’s judicial districts from three to two, and to reduce the number of judges in each district.
- The Senate is considering eight judicial districts in Mecklenburg County, with one Superior Court judge and three District Court judges in each of the eight districts. You can monitor the Senate Committee on Judicial Redistricting at https://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/DocumentSites/browseDocSite.asp?nID=372&sFolderName=%5C12-13-17
The W.D.N.C. federal district court judges were unable to join us, because the Charlotte federal court’s holiday luncheon conflicted with the Bar & Foundation luncheon. We’ll invite a federal district court update at the Meck Bar’s January 2018 board of directors meeting, and I will pass along a summary.
Happy & merry to all of you!
MCB President ’17-‘18