The North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges met in Asheville for three days, beginning Wednesday, June 19.
Approximately 127 regular judges, special judges, emergency judges, retired judges, and appellate court judges and justices attended the meeting. The chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the Honorable Sarah Parker, attended the continuing education programs and spoke on the role of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, of which she is the chair.
During the meeting, the conference recognized recently appointed and elected superior court judges. Additionally, memorials were dedicated for two recently deceased judges: Judge George R. Greene of Wake County and Judge James R. Vosburgh of Beaufort County.
The education program included presentations of updates by faculty from the University of North Carolina School of Government. Professor Ann Anderson reviewed new developments in civil cases, Professor Jessica Smith reviewed several important U.S. Supreme Court and North Carolina appellate court decisions, and Professor Jamie Markham reviewed additional developments in criminal law.
School of Government Professor Michael Crowell and Assistant Professor Trey Allen, along with Judge Ronald E. Spivey of Forsyth County, presented a primer and update on the law of state and municipal governmental immunity. Additionally, other judges and attorney guests delivered valuable presentations regarding civil case jury instruction, class action litigation, and limitations on ex parte communications between attorneys and judges.
The director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, John Smith, addressed the conference on Thursday, June 20. He provided a briefing on the effect of the pending state budget on the North Carolina Judicial Branch.
Thursday evening, the North Carolina Bar Association held a reception honoring the judiciary at its annual meeting, also in Asheville. Then, on Friday morning, the conference held a joint educational session with the Bar Association, which included an address by Chief Justice Parker on the state of North Carolina’s judiciary and an address by United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the role of morals in judicial decision making.
An additional portion of the judicial conference meeting addressed the use of settlement proceeds from civil cases to create public charitable funds. For example, in a civil case in which one party demands payment of an additional $200,000 by another party who is unwilling to pay that sum to the demanding party, but who is willing to pay the sum to resolve the case, the money could be paid to a public charity with the approval of the court. If the money were paid to Legal Aid of North Carolina, it would pay one year’s salary for five new attorneys at $40,000 per year. The new attorneys in turn would provide representation to approximately 1,000 civil litigants who otherwise would appear pro se in civil courts. Pro se litigants generally are less successful in court than represented parties and require additional time and effort by judges and court personnel to resolve their cases.
About the Conference of Superior Court Judges
The purpose of the Conference of Superior Court Judges is to promote professionalism, proficiency, and collegiality among North Carolina judges. Judge Jesse Caldwell of Gaston County is president of the conference, and Judge J.C. Cole of Perquimans County is president-elect.