Members, I’m going to ask if we can get seated, and we’ll get ready to get started. Welcome to today’s Courts Commission meeting for March 9th. The only reason I’m sort of pushing us to get started even though we don’t have a big crowd yet is we can only have this room until 10 minutes of 2, but we also have to stay long enough to eat lunch because I went ahead and got everything, so we’re going to do that. Hopefully it won’t be too long of a meeting, but just letting you know, you will be able to get out of here before 2. The legislature’s back in session; they scheduled a meeting on top of me starting at 2 o’clock today. Let me first recognize our Sergeants-at-Arms. These are the people who are here to help you, protect you and keep you safe, so if you need anything, you can call on them. We have Young Bae, we have Bill Morris, and we have Jim Moran. Don’t bother Jim; he’s running the recording equipment. Don’t look at the man behind the mask. The primary purpose, we’ve got a couple of new members, so why don’t we just…? Everybody who’s here, we’ll go ahead and introduce ourselves again so everybody knows who’s who and where’s where. Locke, we’ll start with you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I’m Locke Bell; I’m the District Attorney in Gaston County. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I’m Gene Flood. I spent my career in academics and in working on global business issues; live in Chapel Hill and I chair the Institute for Global Health for University of North Carolina. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And you’re one of our newest members here, and you are appointed by… the Governor? Chief Justice Martin. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Steve Fowler… [SPEAKER CHANGES] You can pull those microphones down. That’s not a problem. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Steve Fowler from Wilkes County; retired from law enforcement. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We’ll start there? You’ve got to push your button. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Hi, I’m Barbara Jackson; I’m an Associate Justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Bert Kemp, Pitt County, public defender. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Lauren Rainer. I work at Blanchard, Miller, Lewis & Isley in Raleigh doing civil litigation. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Tanner Robinson. I’m from Winston-Salem. I’m an investment consultant there and I was appointed by the Governor. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And that’s another one of our recent members. [SPEAKER CHANGES] John Smith. I’m the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Tom West. I’m General Counsel at North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, and I’m the State Bar Council’s representative. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Tiffany Cone, Human Services Planner with the Department of Public Safety, Juvenile Justice. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And I’m Donna Stroud. I’m a judge on the Court of Appeals. I was recently appointed by Chief Justice Martin to take Judge Bob Hunter’s place. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And we’re glad to have you. And Representative Floyd, just tell them who you are. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Elmer Floyd, House District 43. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And so now you see who the new people are, so remember, when we have lunch, you have to meet a new person and find out all about them. Today’s primary purpose is two-fold. One, I want us to look at our report that you received two weeks ago, and let’s go over it in some detail and let’s find the problems that are in it, particularly for the legislation. The second part of the meeting, I want us to talk about a plan for the next year or year and a half even of the kind of issues we want to tackle and take on. Are there any questions or concerns about the general report itself? Then next we have our recommendations, which are the basis of the bills. Our first recommendation is that we should raise the mandatory retirement ages for judges of the District Court from 72 to 75, so let’s take a look at that draft because I’ve already had a question. We look like we’re doing exactly the same system we did before, except raising it from 72 to 75, and you have to retire by the end of the month that you become that age. I know one of the issues we wanted to see about trying to tackle at some point was those instant runoff elections where 20 people run and you’ve got two weeks to figure it out, and I don’t know if this tackles it. Is that an issue we want to discuss now, or look for ways to solve it, or we just want to do what we’re doing? Locke Bell. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I would suggest we go through what we have here and then address it when we finish this because I don’t think it fits into any of these, but it is critical we look at it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Alright, it doesn’t fit in one of these, and there is someone else in the legislature who’s proposed legislation that may deal with it. Justice Jackson. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I would make one suggestion with this bill, and I apologize for not bringing it up sooner.
With the retirement age at 72 it seems to me it would make sense rather than retiring at the end of the month in which you turn 72, I mean 75, to extend it the end of the year in which you turn 72. That would take care of a lot of problems also. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Then you would have to go with the standard replacement procedures as opposed to the instant election. If you turned 75 in September then what the replacement procedure for 60 days before the election’s very different from the other procedure, is that right? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Exactly. That would take care of some of the problems and then, you know, inherently without any constitutional changes or anything [??]. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. Staff do you see any problem with that? Any constitutional issues? Anybody else have concerns or thoughts about that. So if you turn 75 in January you still get to work until you’re almost 76, but that’s the way it is. So is that a proposed change we’d like to have. All in favor say aye. All opposed, no. All right, will you make that amendment to this report. All right, any more questions or concerns about raising the mandatory minimum age? Boy my group’s awfully quiet today. My next recommendation was [??] back and forth and I don’t have to do that [??]. General Assembly appropriating funds to provide a 10% salary increase to employees of the state crime lab and I know early on one of our concerns was making this about money, but we think that this is probably an appropriate request to make. I know it’s something that we’re all concerned about. Any questions or concerns about that piece of legislation? Mr. Robinson? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes, so my question is does this solve the problem, and as I understand it that’s somewhat uninformed. The problem is that these employees get certified at the state’s expense and then move on to private industry at some point later, so does a 10% bump change that dynamic? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Judge John, the crime lab is gonna stand and address that issue for us. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Am I on? Okay, good. To answer your question, it addresses the problem in a significant manner. I can’t stand here and say yeah, that’s gonna solve everything. Attrition has been a significant issue for the crime laboratory since I went there in 2010. Since January 1, 2010 we have lost at a minimum and I haven’t looked at the most recent figures, but we’ve lost at a minimum 70 scientists and over a 4 year period out of then an existing scientist pool of 124. You’re in private industry. You consult with private businesses. No private business could stand that type of turnover, so it is a very significant issue for us. Where the 10% came from, the Department of Justice did a salary comparison, comparison salary study. They didn’t go out to California or New York or whatever, they looked at the local private and publicly funded laboratories in this region. The City/County Bureau of Investigation Laboratory here in Wake County, the Charlotte, Meckenberg, State of Virginia, State of South Carolina and the State of Georgia. They found we were 16% top to bottom below market level. The General Assembly in 2013-14, one of the two sessions, I can’t remember which, passed a salary adjustment fund and the Department of Justice put the Crime Laboratory at the top of their requesting agencies to participate in the salary adjustment fund and then there was $1,000 across the board increase to state employees passed by the General Assembly. That basically reduced the gap to about 10%. Is that gonna be good enough 2 years from now? Probably not, but we are still in tough budget times and representing the Crime Laboratory in all fairness to ourselves as well as to other agencies, this is what the numbers show we need now and that’s what we’ve asked for is the 10%. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So it may not completely solve the problem but it certainly will ease the burden and as a state agency
sometimes other people feel it's unfair that certain people got raises while other people didn't. But it's supply and demand. If these are demanded elsewhere, then we've got to get them out. [SPEAKER CHANGES] If I might add one thing, Madam Chairman? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Certainly, Judge John. [SPEAKER CHANGES] To show that this is still a problem right now, the General Assembly appropriated money to hire 19 toxicologists in the 2013 session. About three months ago, a young man who was two to three weeks from completing his training, and he was designated to go out to the western laboratory, is now working at the Wake County facility for $20,000 a year more. We trained him and he took off. You can't blame him. It's $20,000 a year more. I understand that. But it is a continuing, ongoing problem. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And we're competing not just [SPEAKER CHANGES] That's what I say. It's not California. It's right here. [SPEAKER CHANGES] State agencies to private agencies. We're also competing with the cities and counties, with their private agencies. Mr. Floyd. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you. So I just had a question of clarification. So with this 10% bump, did you say that closes the gap? [SPEAKER CHANGES] That, as far as we know, would make us competitive right now with the folks, with the agencies that participated or that were the subject of the salary survey. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So it doesn't necessarily fix the problem, but trust me it's better than what we've been doing. One other complicating factor that came up with the scientists, for those of you who are new or not as law-related. There was a Supreme Court case called Melendez versus Diaz, and what it said is we just can't send these reports to court. The person has to actually go testify. So in addition to trying to get all the lab work, they may have to miss a day to go sit in a courtroom somewhere else for one case. So we're trying to tackle that issue as well. It's a constitutional requirement that we weren't doing before. Before we would send the lab reports. They were just accepted as-is. And now instead of doing ten tests in one day, you may have done one test. Now you've gotta spend the day going three and a half hours away to sit in a courtroom until the courts can call it up to testify. So that's another issue we're trying to deal with. Mr. Robinson. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I don't want to belabor the point too much, because it sounds like it's a much-needed step, but is there any way that some sort of deferred compensation structure could be created to again, address the stickiness. Because inevitably what sort of happens is there's gonna be a war, a salary war, where private industry has more bucks than the state does. So we can bump it 10%, but then they can go bump it 5%, or whatever. So again, in trying to solve the problem of stickiness, decreasing turnover, does the state have any way that we can, some sort of deferred comp plan? [SPEAKER CHANGES] We'll defer to Judge Chamin??. I'll ask him the question a little bit different way. Are you allowed to use these lapsed salaries, or these unused salaries to compensate others? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Lapsed salaries cannot be used for [SPEAKER CHANGES] Filling gaps. [SPEAKER CHANGES] for salaries, yes. I will say that I know that there is a group within the crime laboratory now that is looking at the whole salary structure issue facing the crime laboratory, and it may be that a year or two down the road we'll come forward with a new salary structure. But for right now, we need some help. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Any other questions? Because there'll be one technical correction to the bill, and it's that on line 14, forensic supervisor. It should say forensic scientist supervisor. And on line 15, instead of forensic manager, it should say forensic scientist manager. And so I've asked staff to make those technical suggestions before we get to the, actually present them to the floor. Any other questions about the lab work? And we're satisfied with this bill? Our next recommendation was that we should amend the North Carolina Constitution to provide that candidates for judgeship must have at least five years of experience as licensed attorneys. And I think the licensing says North Carolina experience? Is that what I heard some people talking about? Justice Jackson. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Madam Chair, we voted on the first bill. Do we need to vote on the second bill? [SPEAKER CHANGES] We can vote on the second bill. All in favor of sending forth that second bill on, not mandatory retirement age, but of funding the lab. All in favor say Aye. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Aye. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Any opposed? That bill has been approved. Next we're talking about amending the constitution so that judges have to have at least five years of legal experience. And that would have to be a constitutional amendment, so we
To put it on the ballot in, did we say when we're gonna put this on the ballot? In the what? In the November General Election on 2016. Any questions, comments? Mr. Bell? You wanna cut your mike on so we can record you? [SPEAKER CHANGES]I'm sorry. [SPEAKER CHANGES]It records you more than anything. [SPEAKER CHANGES]My floor and I were talking, and I mistakenly said that it was five years in North Carolina, and I think it should be, very briefly the reasons I pointed out, was procedurally simple things and somebody comes down out of Illinois up there, they walk around the court room, the get in the face of the witnesses. Procedurally, here the courtroom's run very differently, a laws are different, if you came up from Louisiana, they're on the French system. I think that I support this and I think we ought to put in five years in licensed in North Carolina. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Five years experience in North Carolina? Okay, and you want to see about maybe, Judge Smith, I think you had some questions? [SPEAKER CHANGES]I just wanted to comment that they could be licensed anywhere under this draft. [SPEAKER CHANGES]All right, and so do we. [SPEAKER CHANGES]They could be licensed in England. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Right, so do we wanna, Jess Jackson? [SPEAKER CHANGES]And just as a reminder, in 2004, and again in 2006, we had a candidate for the State Supreme Court who had been licensed for about 14 to 16 years but had only been licensed in North Carolina for I think about three to five years. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Okay, and that maybe something that we really wanna do. We had one who ran in my area who really didn't keep in license but never practiced law, he ran a mobile home park and was going to run for judge. And so, even though he had the licensed experience, he may not necessarily be the best lawyer for us. What do you all think about amendment? So, I'll take Mr. Bell's, we're being a little more informal, I'll take Mr. Bell's recommendation as an amendment, so that the five years experience as a licensed attorney should be in the State of North Carolina. Comments, questions? Burt, you want to say something, I can see it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes, Mame. I guess I, although I agree with Mr. Bell, I'm just concerned about the constitutionality of it. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Well, we're talking about putting this in the Constitution. [SPEAKER CHANGES]I understand, but whether or not it would actually violate the US Constitution about being it specifically licensed in North Carolina, does it infringe ? And I'm about to go to the extent of my constitutional knowledge, but interstate working, or anything like that? [SPEAKER CHANGES]Now, let me see if Ameri-constitution. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Or interstate commerce? [SPEAKER CHANGES]Has an opinion, you all don't have any opinion as to whether this? Okay, well they said they would look into it. Assuming it's unconstitutional, is that the amendment we want to run? Assuming it's constitutional of the federal perspective, is this the amendment we want to run? [SPEAKER CHANGES]I have a question. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Ms. Martin? [SPEAKER CHANGES]As far as the experience part of it, I know we want somebody who's practiced law, but what about somebody who were to graduate from law school and then maybe they become a professor for five years, they're licensed to practice law but they're not necessarily practicing law. I don't really have an opinion in one way or the other, whether that person should be qualified to be a judge, but I can see it being open to interpretation. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Mr. Bell wants to respond to that. [SPEAKER CHANGES]I don't think we can decide what the qualifications are or the number of judges I've appeared in front of wouldn't be judges and I wouldn't be a DA. [SPEAKER CHANGES]Well, and I will tell you, we did have one in our area who was and incredibly good judge, but his office practice, he basically had been in office practice, he'd done mostly business and deeds and things like that, but he became a very good judge. Mr. West? [SPEAKER CHANGES]Yeah, I just wanted, I have the same concern you do about the interstate commerce clause. The other concern I have if we made it North Carolina, you may have people who are on the military court of justice, and I don't remember the exact title, but they may be prosecutors, Navy, Army, Marines move to North Carolina, have a lot of trial court experience, have a lot of judicial experience, but may have been licensed somewhere else, New York, California, Florida. And so, if you changed it to North Carolina you would be making a statement that people with that experience would not be able
...want to be a NC judge. I just want to point that out. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Dr. Floyd. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I have the same concern. I understand the motivation, [Locke?] and I, we were talking about this in advance and that there’s a lot of technical knowledge that’s specific to NC. So somebody coming from another state won’t necessarily know all the ins and outs. I’m not a lawyer. So I don’t know what those technical issues would be, however, it does seem to me that highly qualified people make transitions and they get themselves up to speed, and they can be quite competent, so somebody coming in as a senator, for example, I don’t think has to live in the state for five years before they can run for senate, US Senate for the state. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Right. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Or somebody coming from a different state like NH to be the chancellor of UNC at Chapel Hill, coming from a private university to a public university. We, if we kind of push this argument, we’d say well, she doesn’t have public university experience and so we need her to have five years of public university experience before switching from Dartmouth to UNC. I’d say you know, with people at this level, many can make transitions and get up to speed quickly, quickly enough so that we’re able to get highly competent people in here, even though they don’t know NC specifically, they can learn it quickly and then become competent judges. I just want to raise that question to say maybe we’d be missing important opportunities by requiring this five years in NC before somebody can come. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Rep. Bryan. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I don’t want to necessarily overcomplicate this conversation. I have some sympathy for that argument, generally. I don’t know if there’d be, what sort of the pulse would be if you have more than ten years experience, either having no requirement if you’ve been practicing for more than ten years and you moved in, or just maybe one year in NC, if you’ve been practicing for ten years. So I like, I like this idea for new practitioners because we all understand having experience. And I think if you’re right out of law school and have that, that few years -- not saying someone might not still be great, but just that being in state may be all the more helpful. Whereas if you moved down from practicing ten years in New York City, maybe even been a judge at some level or something, and come down, it might be less problematic. So I’ll throw that out there, I don’t know if someone...I mean I’m not a litigator. I don’t regularly appear before judges, so I’m gonna defer to the rest of you guys. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, in that same vein I’d almost say you’ve gotta have at least five years experience as an attorney and at least one or two of them have to be outside the DA’s office, just to step on Locke’s toes. I just, I’m just joking. Judge Strap[?]. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yeah. [SPEAKER CHANGES] That would be Shangri-La. [SPEAKER CHANGES] You know, some of the people who aren’t attorneys may not realize that just sort of an analogy, I’ve always thought it was very interesting that in NC, in order to be a certified mediator, you have to have five years of experience. You have to go through training. You have to observe to be qualified. In order to be a specialist in areas of law, you have to practice for five years, you have to get recommendations and you have to take an exam. And I always thought it was very interesting that you could be a judge without any of that. So I think it’s, I would be in favor of the NC requirement of certainly five years, if not ten. I know TX does ten years for most of its judgeships experience required and a minimum age. So I think that would be very good. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Rep. ?? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think I’m in favor of the amendment as well of NC experience. Before I came back home, I’d done over 2,000 cases in another state, still had to take the bar here and I just don’t think it’s something you can get yourself up to speed with that quickly or we can’t really learn it that quickly. After I took the bar here, I didn’t even feel completely competent to go in the courtrooms here. There were so many differences, just the language, the terminology. I certainly didn’t feel like I was competent enough to sit on the bench at that point, so I think that’s something we should definitely consider. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Alright. For discussion? Then I’d like...Rep. Floyd. [SPEAKER CHANGES] One thing that I heard mentioned and as it relates to in state and out of state, but when we look at judicial process all across the country, each state has
different sets of laws, they may be similar but the way those laws are written they are totally different. And I think that for a person to come on board and we're talking about looking at the legation is that person should have at least a minimum of five years of experience [SPEAKER CHANGE] In North Carolina. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Evem though he or she may have military experience. It's totally different between military statutes and state statutes. So I just think that person should have at least a minimum of five years. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Representative Hall. [SPEAKER CHANGE] I'd like to go ahead and second the amendment to make it North Carolina experience. [SPEAKER CHANGE] The whole five years? [SPEAKER CHANGE] Yes. [SPEAKER CHANGE] And that's still your proposed amendment is that all five years would be in North Carolina. So that is the amendment before us that the five years of experience would be in North Carolina. Let's discuss the amendment. Representative Ken. Nothing on the amendment. So is that the amendment everybody understands? All right all in favor say aye. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Aye [SPEAKER CHANGE] Opposed. Everybody's opposed. Five years experience in North Carolina. Staff thinks that might be a problem tell us why that five years might be a problem. We think the U.S. Constitution might have commerce clause may have some issues with that that's why we said assuming it's constitutional what if we limited and said at least one year experience in North Carolina or at least two years in North Carolina. She's looking it up. You going to tell everybody? I'm going to ask staff to tell everybody what's she's telling me. [SPEAKER CHANGE] This is not a question that I don't think staff or this committee can definitively answer right now. Think that it's a complex issue as these constitutional provision is currently written it refers to individuals authorized to practice law in the courts of the state it doesn't use the words admitted to practice law in the courts in the state. If you look at the state bar rule regarding unauthorized practice of law you may be authorized to practice law in this state even though you are not admitted to practice in the North Carolina state bar. We would need to do a significant amount of research on whether or not limiting that to licensed attorney's in this state would be valative of the commerce clause of the United States constitution but on first consideration we're concerned that it would. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Can you explain who else would be duly authorized to practice law in North Carolina but not an attorney. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Well if you look at rule five point five of the state bar and again we have not done an extensive amount of research on this but under rule five point five of the North Carolina state bar rules if you are not admitted to practice in this jurisdiction you shall not except by authorized by these rules or other law establish an office hold out to the public that your admitted to practice and then you are authorized to practice in North Carolina even if your admitted to practice in another jurisdiction and not disbarred or suspended. If you are authorized to appear before a tribunal or administrative agency in this jurisdiction and if the authorization is by law order if your acting with respect to a matter that arises out of or is reasonably related to their representation of a client in a jurisdiction where their admitted but your pro hot vishay if you, and it lists four specific circumstances under which you don't have to be admitted to practice in the courts of this state but you are authorized to practice in the courts of this state. And then it talks about a lawyer admitted to practice in another United States jurisdiction or foreign jurisdictions. I mean it goes on for about two pages and I think we would need to have further study and reflection on the constitutional issues in order to determine that but I think you would possibly running afoul of the U.S. constitution by limiting it to someone that is licensed to practice in this state for five years. We just can't answer that definitively right now. [SPEAKER CHANGE] Mr Bale.
I won't respond to that. I will simply say that, subject to--Con--subject to it not being a violation of the commerce clause: United States Constitution, I recommend this(??). I don't think it is; I don't want to get into a long drawn-out over that. So, I would say let's go ahead and move forward with this, subject to the review of the constitutionality, as opposed to the ??. SPEAKER CHANGES: As to being duly licensed in North Carolina: Justice Jackson. SPEAKER CHANGES. I would agree with Mr. Bell's suggestion, but I also think that there's, with-with regard to the state bar rules, there's (??) between being authorized and being licensed. Whether the court has decided to admit somebody pro hac vice or not. So, I think--I don't think it really--and I think what we're talking about doing in, in this provision is discussing folks who are licensed. Not, whether or not the licensure requirement runs afoul of the Constitution or not, I think seems to be the issue. Not--I don't--I'm not sure the state--I am not sure I understand how the state bar rules come into play. It seems like SCOTUS is probably; and how they've; if-if they've looked at it or if other states have this requirement, it might be instructive. And I didn't look at that. SPEAKER CHANGES Mr. Rieves (??). SPEAKER CHANGES And I think the issue, regardless of whether you keep it as five years as a licensed attorney, or five years as a North Carolina attorney, you don't really have an issue with the authorized, because let's say that somebody's authorized pro hac vice, they're not really, in my opinion, authorized to practice in the courts of the state; they're authorized to practice in that particular case with that particular sponsoring attorney, who has to, of course, file reports. So, I don't think they're authorized to practice in the courts, but even if they are authorized to practice generally, whether they're licensed for five years, or five years as a North Carolina attorney would take care of that issue. I don't think--I think you're down to the interstate commerce clause issue: North Carolina versus otherwise. SPEAKER CHANGES Dr. Floyd. SPEAKER CHANGES I'd be very interested if; and I don't know whether we have the resources here, but to see what other states have done on this, so that if it's possible to get a listing--so that we have some sense for whether this is highly unusual or, this is typical that states require x number of years of in-state experience before being able to be a judge. SPEAKER CHANGES And our staff can look at that, and they will, but I don't know that they'll get it done, and get it back to us today. That becomes the issue. Mr. Kemp. SPEAKER CHANGES I do want to make one point, though: although the suggestion, the amendment, with regards to the licensed in North Carolina is important, and I'm not taking that away. However, if it does deem to be unconstitutional, or if there's any--if it's problematic, I still want to know if this commission could at least put in their notes that regardless if it's a bill in the alternative, or in the notes that it def(??)..what I am most concerned more or so about the North Carolina aspect of it is just the five years. SPEAKER CHANGES Sure. SPEAKER CHANGES The fact that they just can't jump out of law school and then run for judge within 18 months. SPEAKER CHANGES Certainly. SPEAKER CHANGES. And, and I just want to make sure that, that hopefully this commission won't, we just won't get tripped up on the- the--I think the bigger issue is... SPEAKER CHANGES Experience. SPEAKER CHANGES ...The experience part. I, I'd hate for it to all not go forward because of we get off on a --or we just go down a ditch, or in a ditch. SPEAKER CHANGES Well, and this, this to point out too: this bill would still have to go through a house judiciary, and a senate judiciary committee, and probably at least another committee or two. Particularly since this is a constitutional amendment. The other thing I'll say is -- and I'm just playing devil's advocate here, if I 'm an individual and I'm very litigious, by nature; I'm not an attorney, but I'm very litigious, by nature, I have every right to represent myself in courts. Am I therefore a person duly authorized to license, to practice law in the state? If I's simply representing myself everywhere I go, I'm authorized by statute to represent myself. Now, we're putting in that it has to be licensed attorney; that language was not there before. So, without the new language of licensed attorney, if I'm litigious by nature, couldn't I just go in and try to run for judge? It's just a thought. I could certainly make that argument. Representative Paul. SPEAKER CHANGES Well, we have the word licensed attorney in the bill, but the distinction we're talking about is authorized versus admitted in the...
amendment to be in North Carolina. So that's the reason I don't think there's a constitutional issue, or that it matters for the amendment. I obviously heard the amendment moved from the floor, but I haven't heard the exact wording of what we're voting on. But if seems to me if it was just written as five years practicing in North Carolina, that would take care of the issue. [SPEAKER CHANGES] My understanding of the amendment as we're going to make it is that on line ten at the end of licensed attorneys, it would be who have at least five years experience as licensed attorneys in North Carolina. That's the amendment as I understand it. Representative Floyd? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Just a quick question so it can give you a little ?? room. If it was should instead of the real affirmative? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Shall. You think it's just a shall? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Should be five years. Should have five years. [SPEAKER CHANGES] It's persons who have this experience shall be eligible to run for judges. That's where your mandatory language comes in after. You have to have all that stuff before, before you shall be eligible. And again, the same amendment would be made on the second page of the bill, at line five after licensed attorneys in North Carolina, in terms of filling the vacancies as well. That's the amendment. Further questions, assuming constitutionality. Tiffany? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'm just making sure that we are having this discussion for the amendment to put it on the ballot in 2016? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Right. That's how it would be worded on the ballot. [SPEAKER CHANGES] It goes to the public. They're gonna have to vote on it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Right. After it survives the two other judiciaries. [SPEAKER CHANGES] The thing though that concerns me is, Joe Blow Citizen is not gonna have a clue about this. So the only people, I think, that are gonna vote is your attorneys. [SPEAKER CHANGES] It is like the one we just did in terms of waiving the rights to trial by jury, trying to understand that. And some people will understand this even a little better than waiving that right to trial by jury, because they'll understand judges ought to be lawyers. Well, we thought they all were anyway. And they'll be some people who'll go out and say, No. We ought to be able to have laypeople who come in and serve on the bench. We have a couple of those in the legislature who think you should be able to be a judge no matter what. Representative Hall. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think I've fixed the wording, if we could reconsider the amendment. Begin on line nine, only persons who are licensed to practice law in the courts this date and have at least five years experience practicing. That would mean, obviously, they have to be licensed in the state to run, but the wording of the sentence that way doesn't mean they have to have been licensed in this state the entire five years. They could have just practiced in the state for five years, but obviously be licensed at the time they're running for judge. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Let's defer to Mr. Bell. It's his amendment. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I disagree. I think that means somebody could retire, move down here, get license to accommodate, and run for judge. I think we need to keep it the way it is. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Mr. Hall. Intent to file. [SPEAKER CHANGES] But the rest of that sentence would be, and practicing law in North Carolina for at least five years. So they could have been practicing through ways other than just being licensed through the ways mentioned that you could practice here, which I still have a bit of an issue with that, but solves the problem of they could've already been practicing for five years, but just actually got their North Carolina bar license in the last two years. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So you're wanting to amend his amendment? We haven't voted on his amendment yet, but you want to amend his amendment? Mr. West. [SPEAKER CHANGES] If we're speaking about changing authorize to practice law to license to practice law, my concern about changing that is that that's existing law, and I think when it was passed, people felt that it was to prevent the situation of, I think, the person who ran for Chief Justice years ago. And I would argue that a person who represents themselves as an individual is not authorized to practice law. They're empowered to represent themselves, but they're not authorized to practice law. So I would be concerned about changing the law from authorize to licensed, because it could create an argument that what we currently have as the law was not effective to prevent somebody from running for judge that was not licensed. [SPEAKER CHANGES] You're tendering it as a perfecting amendment. Is that right, Representative Hall?
Yes, Chairman. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. All in favor of his perfecting amendment, say aye. All opposed say no. I only hear no's, so your perfecting amendment fails. We'll go back to your amendment in North Carolina, so long as that provision is, on research, determined to be constitutional, we'll add that amendment on to the bill. All those in favor, of adding just in North Carolina after licensed attorneys in both places, say aye. All opposed? Okay, one no. The aye's have it. The amendment is prepared. Now on the bill, as amended, all those in favor say aye. All opposed? The amendment carries. The fourth proposed legislation we talked about was expanding the authorized use of grant funds that were provided to the conferences of district attorneys. As you recall, we had five-hundred thousand dollars set aside in a pot, for the DA's to use, to help with the backlog of the courts. Their local hospitals would be able to perform blood alcohol analysis, and if they could be willing to come testify, we would do that. Now what we want to be able to use it for, DNA. For other lab tests that are also backlogged. Anything further you want to say with that? Mr. Bell? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Back at the end of last week, we made a few minor, minor changes, and I said I wanted to hear from the lab to make sure that it's worded correctly.. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Forensic DNA Analysis? [SPEAKER CHANGES] That, and also the licensing. We had this issue come up with the original blood testing. You have the certifying agencies. And what we did with the blood testing was, department of health and human services, here, I believe they're using.. there's this fancy ?? international lab that has to be, that has to prove it. I just want to hear from somebody from the lab to make sure we haven't made a mistake with that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative John, have you had a chance to look at that language? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Madam Chairman, looking at it right now... [SPEAKER CHANGES] Of those private labs approved by the state crime lab as complying with the combined index, DNA index system. Codus requirement. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Off the top of my head, without really looking into it, and then looking at it this one time, it looks okay. One thing that, now that I'm standing and I'll take advantage of it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Certainly, Judge John. [SPEAKER CHANGES] This.. these funds were appropriated by the general assembly specifically to address issues in the toxicology analysis, where there is significant turn-around time delays, to the local courts from the crime laboratory. And, Mr. District Attorney, I'm wondering if it would continue that intent, but in addition allow you all to move forward in other areas, by requiring that the local district attorney who's applying for funds for something other than toxicology has already brought his, his or her toxicology case situation to a current level... I, you know I'm thinking sort of at the top, off the top of my head. In other words, you're taking money that should have been used for toxicology, and putting it somewhere else, and if you haven't exhausted your, or solved, resolved your toxicology issue, maybe you shouldn't be taking the money and putting it in another area. That's kind of, not very artfully said but hopefully it gets the idea across. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And I think Mister Bell got the point, and I think he wants to respond. Mr. Bell. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes, I had always proposed, no more than four hundred thousand. -are looking at it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Your mic's not on. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And so I want to at least reserve a hundred thousand for us to be able to do that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And the only other thing, as to the.. I think this wording, it's fine, they took out some of the stuff that had me concerned as to
the lab in Pitt County. It's approved by the state lab because they're sending things there. Therefore it would pass, the original wording it didn't. So, I would just say that it should be $400,000 and not the 500. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Here's the issue, we've had it out there for almost two years now and only $20,000 has been used because part of this is, and again it's a limited pot of money, it's trying to take care of that backlog but you want it to just be of the sum of $500,000, only $400,000 can be used for multiple reasons. I guess that's the question. Explain to me, if you want it amended, how you want it amended. And remember, it will go to a judiciary and an appropriations in both houses. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think if it says of the funds appropriated in this act, judicial department, the sum of $400,000 shall be allocated to the- [SPEAKER CHANGES] She's having trouble, get your mic closer, staff was having trouble hearing you but wasn't $500,000 the pot of money that was set aside, period, and if you say of the sum set aside, $400,000, it's going to sound like you gave $100,000 back. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Right. It was always my intention that, I use the term $400,000 be used to deal with other matters of backlog but keeping $100,000 to maintain the blood toxicology work that's being done by private hospitals. [SPEAKER CHANGES] What if you had a sudden rush and they really wanted to get all the toxicology reports done and you'd use the whole $400,000 for that? I mean, I realize you haven't used a lot of it yet and our purpose is to draw what we can away from the lab so they can play catch-up and then evaluate where we are, so I guess I'm just getting a little confused. Is DNA going to be that much more expensive? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, the thing was, several meetings ago the lab came and said they were going to start sending things to Pitt and they told Judge Smith, "We expect you to pay for it," and the money wasn't there. And that's when I said, "Look, we're not using all the $500,000, we can't use all the $500,000, but as a prosecutor I would like to have DNA tested so I could go after murderers." So I proposed that part of this $500,000 be used on the backlog of, it really started with DNA. And so that was always my idea, and I'm just one person here, that we can't spend the $500,000 on local hospitals. We have a backlog someplace else. The purpose of the $500,000 is to help prosecute cases. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Cases period. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Period. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And that's what this says? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Right. Let's assign some of it, and I should have reread this more closely on Friday and I apologize. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well the conference of DA's is allocated to use it so if the Conference of DA's, am I correct? If the Conference of DA's chooses to send a portion of it, it's still going to come through the DA, we just have to give them permission to use the funds in other ways. So if your Conference of DA's says, "Wait a minute, we're not going to let it all go to lab," that's up to the Conference of DA's, that's my understanding. And I think Peg is shaking her head, she's going to hold on to part of it. Other questions, concerns, and comments? Mr. Fowler and then Mr. West. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes Ma'am, who certifies these labs? [SPEAKER CHANGES] If you're a hospital you're already certified, you've met all the certifications in order to be a hospital, then the other thing says private labs that have been approved by the state crime lab as complying with codus. So there are certifications. They have to use certified labs but a hospital, my understanding is that an accredited hospital is automatically certified. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Mr. West. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Madam Chair, just a technical question, if we amend a bill that has funds for the 2013/2014 fiscal year and are we accomplishing what we want to do or do we need some perfecting amendments to this to... [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well the money was appropriated at that time, it was given to the DA's office, it has never been pulled back. It's a one time appropriation and they're still holding the money. So I think this accomplishes the purpose. Mr. Childs. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes Ma'am, the money does not revert. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So it would be a continuing, it'd be a continuation budget if you did this. [SPEAKER CHANGES] It's not a continuation budget. It's been appropriated but they only had that one purpose. They could sit on this $500,000 for the next 20 years, as long as they're using it for toxicology tests. Well, the problem is they weren't going to be able to use that much so we're allowing them to do it. It's a one time pot of money for a set use. We're expanding the use
...use for which they can use it. So it's not necessarily anything that has to be re-budgeted. I think I said that right. Mr. Childs, do you want to explain? He wants to explain everything. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you. Representative Stevens, is exactly correct. Reverting money means that if there is money leftover in an agency's budget at the end of the year some of the money may have to be returned to the state's general fund to be re-used for balances in the next year, but in this case this money was paid out once and the Conference of District Attorney can use that money for this purpose until it is gone. [SPEAKER CHANGES] ?? the bill. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think this will work as it is. Re-reading it, listening to what the judge says, I think it's fine. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Any other questions? Concerns? All in favor of the Amendment as written say, "Aye." [SPEAKER CHANGES] Aye. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Opposed? No opposition. The amendment, the bill is approved. The next recommendation we have is for the Commission on Indigent Counsel to increase their rate's pay by $5 per hour, and to provide a comparable increase for contract attorneys during that period. And that is going to take six and a half million dollars in each of the next year's of biennium fund the $5 raise and comparable increases for contract attorneys. Questions? Concerns? Comments? These people are woefully underpaid. Dr. Floyd? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Just a question for information. Can somebody give rough ideas for what they are being paid right now? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Mr. Childs? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Representative Stevens, or Madam Chair, I'm sorry. Dr. Floyd, the rates currently, there's a list on it the IDS website. I think we have a list on the website for the court's commission. Just roughly though, it's roughly $55 an hour for District Court, $65 an hour for Superior Court, and then there's some variations in there for capital cases and whether or not their proceeding capitally so they may go up to 75/85 dollars, depending on that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Two years ago, or four years ago, before we lowered it, it was $75 an hour in District Court and $85 an hour in Superior Court. So their rates took a dramatic cut when we were there. Justice Jackson has something she's itching to say. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I was judging an ?? court competition over the weekend, and a couple of the volunteer attorneys with IDS, attorneys who work with IDS were there, and one of the attorneys was telling me that she was really discouraged to learn that the IT professional that works for IDS was getting $75 an hour and her reimbursement rate was $55 an hour. Just to put that in a little bit of context. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And interpreters were making $50 or $60 an hour at a minimum of an hour every time they come out. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And PIs were making fifty. [SPEAKER CHANGES] 50. PIs were making 50. It's an issue. Mr. Robinson? [SPEAKER CHANGES] From a supply and demand perspective, it seems like we're creating a lot of lawyers and not all of them are getting works. Is there any way, instead of artificially adjusting the price, to go to kind of a market system? Where there're bidders for the work? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, that's a portion of what they've done with this contract. They've Let contracts and said you'll take a certain number of cases and this is the money you'll get. We've raised some constitutional issues about that in terms of...they're doing it. They're doing it so see how well it works, but we've...and they don't necessarily bid. They say, "are you willing to take this many cases for this amount of money." We're concerned about whether there are attorneys that may not fulfill their constitutional obligation. They'll simply look at it as a, "I get a quick hit no matter what I do with this person. I could put him under." We're concerned about the effectiveness of the assistance of counsel that way. So there is an issue. Did I say that right? Pretty much. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes ma'am. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So this would be a modest rate increase per hour, and again it's going to go through an appropriations committee and they'r gonna have to figure out if we have the money. Other questions? Comments? Concerns? All in favor of this bill say, "Aye." [SPEAKER CHANGES] Aye. [SPEAKER CHANGES] All opposed: No. [SPEAKER CHANGES] No. [SPEAKER CHANGES] But, the Ayes appear to have it, and we will send it forward. So it is not unanimous. The last...
The last priority we had this year was establishing procedure on the waiver of right for jury trial for criminal defenses. What we did is we had a constitutional amendment – it was on your ballot last year, so that the defendant could waive the right to a jury trial. The problem was it wasn’t clear when it came through exactly what the procedure was, so we’ve been using all these people to talk about what the procedure should be. A defendant can waive his trial by signing a stipulation and giving notice of his intent, and in any of the following methods, he can… there would be a stipulation signed by the state and the defendant and served on the council for any codefendants by filing a written notice of his intent to waive the trial, serving the state and council for any codefendants, and then having a hearing before a judge, or giving notice of his intent to waive a jury trial by record in open court by the earlier of the time of arraignment or the calling of calendar under 7A. The waiver extends to the determination of sentencing factors, and upon notice of the waiver by the defense, the state can contact the judge scheduled to preside and determine whether the judge agrees to hear it without a jury. Once it’s been made and consented to by the trial judge, it may not be revoked if the state determines the revocation would cause unreasonable hardship or delay. In the event the defendant makes a motion to suppress evidence, the court shall make a written finding of fact to the conclusion of law. If the trial judge decides such a motion, a motion to recuse the trial judge may be appropriate. Does the seem to…? Mr. ?? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think there was a part of this that was added back in at the end of last week: the DA’s ability to contact the judge to find out whether the judge will hear it and the timing… Maybe I’m just missing it, and I apologize. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think if you look at the second page, starting at line 5, the state may contact the judge scheduled to preside to determine whether the judge agrees to hear it without a jury? Is that what you’re talking about? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Excuse me, yes. I was looking at the last line. I apologize. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay. There’s one right there in the middle. Any other questions and concerns? Mr. Kent. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Madam Chair, if I could turn everybody’s attention to the page 24, the last page, specifically line 4, and it says as follows: “Such a waiver shall extend to the determination of any sentencing factors.” It is my understanding, and Judge ??, it is my understanding that one of the things you were concerned about was the fact that sentencing factors that term was not in the law as it already is written, and I wanted to… I’m not making a… this is just for pure conversation only at this point. I’m not making an amendment at this point, but I just wanted to read something to Judge ?? to see if that would indeed resolve his concern. Is saying “Such a waiver shall extend to the determination…” Excuse me, “Such a waiver shall extend to the whole matter of law and fact, to include all factors referred to in GS 20-179 and GS 15A-1340.16(A1)”…? Would such an amendment…? And just for everyone’s knowledge, 20-179 is dealing with the aggravating factors and sentencing factors with regards to DWIs, while 15A-1340 is dealing with the aggravating factors or mitigating factors, sentencing factors, dealing with felonies. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Judge ??. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I do think that cleans it up and I appreciate you working on that because I think it answers my concerns, but I also think that there needs to likewise be some conforming language or conforming changes being made to actual Statute 2179 and 15A-1340.16(A1) to acknowledge in those statutes that a judge and not a jury might be finding the factors if the new waiver of criminal jury trial is accepted and consented to by the trial judge. Just for clarification purposes. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Staff, do you have something to add, or did you pick up what he said? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Just to say that we can certainly make any changes that are voted upon. The term “sentencing factors” is used in 15A-1340.16(C), and with regard to any other conforming changes, then that would be something that we
...certainly can’t look, put into a bill right now, but that could be a recommendation of the commission. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Certainly, and I think that the comment from Mr. Kemp was that those statutes specifically say a jury shall find as a fact these sentencing factors, so we need to say if the trial is waved, we need clarification for technical correction[?], pull it through all the statute, is that correct. Any other questions, and comments and concerns? Judge Smith. [SPEAKER CHANGES] This is just for your drafters, but this repeatedly, the first, the GS7A749, that statute does not exist. [SPEAKER CHANGES] 7A749 does not exist? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think they’re talking about 49.4, but I’m not [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay, so we’ve got some cleanup to do and Mr. Kemp wants to make an amendment. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I do with that very language. It’s just changing the such a waiver on line 4 to say such a waiver shall extend to the whole matter of law in fact, to include all factors referred to in GS20-79 and GS15A1340, 16A1, and I had it written down and I can just forward it to you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] If they’re not going--yeah, that would be very helpful. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Oh, absolutely. I’ll do it in just a second. [SPEAKER CHANGES] The reference to those statutes. Does everybody understand the amendment? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I would second that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Justice Jackson, okay. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I just want to confirm that [Stype?] had had an opportunity to review this in light of the SCOTUS decision on aggravators and was comfortable that this comported with that? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Okay, they’re going to look at it and Sean actually drafted, they’re gonna have to see what Sean has to say. He’s not there. Judge Kopp. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And Justice Jackson, that’s exactly where my concern came from, Blakeley, Blakeley decision. And I think... [SPEAKER CHANGES] Alright, assuming again, constitutionality and having it reviewed for that in comparison, first to accept the perfected amendment of Mr. Kemp. All in favor say aye. All opposed no. The ayes have it and we’ll adopt that amendment. Now, on to the statute itself or onto the proposed legal changes. Any further discussion, or comment or debate? All in favor say aye. All opposed say no. And we will carry that forward. And again, as I said, these will go to the general assembly. They will be done under as attorney deals, or as member deals because we could not get through quick enough to meet the commission deals deadline. Any fellow members want to sign on these bills, that will be fine. Mr. Floyd[?] said he’d like to, or Sen. Floyd on all of them, shall we put all of us on there? So all the representatives except Mr. Moore, who didn’t come. He’s not supposed to be filing deals, I think, speaker. And so that sort of concludes. Rep. Jackson. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I apologize, I was not at the conclusion of the meeting at the last meeting, I apologize for that. And that was when the court reporters made their presentation, but I feel like one of the things that were missing is a bill to resort the court reporter’s salaries to what they were prior to the cut by the general assembly. My understanding is that there are currently ??ies in the court reporter’s staff and I think that that’s in harmony with what we’re doing with the SBI crime lab folks. And I think it’s a really serious problem for the delivery of criminal and civil justice in the state. And I was wondering if we could offer [SPEAKER CHANGES] Alright. [SPEAKER CHANGES] a, a motion for consideration of that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] It could be a recommendation of this committee she says. Other people who were here and heard the court reporter, do you feel the same way that we need to make this as a recommendation to the court’s commission? They’re saying we may not--and we all felt that way. It was a very wonderful presentation and I know that there’s a lot of push in other ways for the court reporters. We’re looking to try to protect them. Do you know, have you heard anything about court reporters this term and what they’re doing? We don’t know anything yet? Go ahead. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I know that...
This recommendation would affect both the AOC and IDS's operation budget, because the cut was to the per page compensation, which comes out of both AOC and IDS, specifically out of the DA's portion of the budget, and IDS. I don't have the numbers on that. I don't know exactly how that's affected the budget at this point, but I can get that number and get back to the commission with that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So you would like to recommend at least that we look at it? That as the Course Commission we think that's something they need to look at in terms of retaining effective court? Any second on that motion to add it to our report? Judge Cobb has done that. Discussion? Indigent defense in AOC? It will be coming out of your budget. Any questions, comments? Do we want to amend this report to include that? Judge Smith? [SPEAKER CHANGES] The AOC is on the record that the per page rate should be increased. [SPEAKER CHANGES] All right. AOC's on the record with that. Any other comments? All those in favor of adding to our report that we recommend that the page rate be reinstated for the court reporters, please signify by saying Aye. All opposed No. It carries. The report will be amended to reflect that without a specific bill, but we will submit the recommendations as well. We're moving along very rapidly today, even with some lively discussion which has been good for us. So we'll take this time right now to start talking about what we want to look at in this upcoming year. We'll have our meetings. We can't have another meeting until session's done, because I was threatened with my life that I couldn't keep taking staff away from legislative business. So it will probably an August or September meeting, and then we may have two or three meetings before the next short session, which would' be next May. So we'll have plenty of time for meetings. Discussions? What kinds of things would you like to talk about or study or investigate so I can bring experts in to you? And, if you don't have things, I could put some people on the spot and open it up to the members of our audience who are interested in various things that we do. So, Mr. Bell? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I still think we need to address the issue of motions for appropriate relief. We had a presentation, Peg had some people here who gave a presentation which showed some of the problem. It's only gonna get worse. We've got to deal with that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do you have some ideas or do you know some people who regularly work in this that could give us ideas? Because I thought that seemed to be the biggest problem we have is finding the solution. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I was speaking with ?? and Mary. She's with Prisoner Legal Services. She was here. Maripaula??, thank you. And she and I were talking about getting together with some people and addressing it. And I would be more than happy to work with her, and I think Bert ought to be there, and a couple others, and let's see what we can hammer out. [SPEAKER CHANGES] That'd be great, and we'll allow you to do a presentation and bring whatever you want to bring. So just let us know when you're ready to go on that one. Justice Jackson? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think most of you have heard that the Chief Justice Raleigh committed to initiating eFiling across the state. And I think it's something we should certainly have on our radar screen. Obviously that's going to be a lengthy process to determine what our needs are and the best way to accomplish that, but I think it's certainly something for our commission to be engaged in as well. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So we can get some AOC information on eFiling and what it's gonna take and how it's gonna proceed from there. That's not enough to have even two meetings so far. Bert? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Madam Chair, I still think we need to look at the reclassification of class three misdemeanors, especially the way that the chart is with the fine only at level one and level two. It is still causing tremendous confusion at the first appearances and at the district court level, and everyone's just still pulling their hair out. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Sure, and that was an issue, but we didn't necessarily have a solution for it. So as we come up with some solutions, that'll be great. Lauren, you're welcome to come on up here with us. You still have a seat on the front here. Issues? Additional? Representative Floyd. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Could we just spend a little bit more time on special courts? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Specialty courts. What would you like to talk about in terms of specialty courts? Their effectiveness? Their location? Their expansion? Their
Just mentioned it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Just mentioned everything? Yes, ma'am? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'd like to agree with that, and just look at, again, continued funding, I think that is the issue at this point. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Let me ask a question, I just had this thought when I was actually in Appropriations the other day, what if we funded an additional Trial Court Administrator for every district court? And they could decide to use it for family court, drug court, other specialty courts, because not everybody does the same thing. Some people really insist on this court and some people really insist on that court, and we don't have them state wide, but it's some effort, I guess, to be fair to everybody. That thought just crossed my mind and I wasn't sure how expensive it would be, but then your Trial Court Administrator needs to decide, do they do family court or can they manage family court and drug court with their Trial Court Administrator, and some of them have private funding. I was surprised to learn there's private funding for DAs in certain counties, so it's interesting. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And we can definitely bring some folks in and have some discussion about it, at least in port, those specialty courts are very important. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And they are, they're instrumental. Some people are very, very passionate about the particular court they have, but then you have others that have nothing, so are they sort of getting slighted? Do we have the money to expand it state-wide? [SPEAKER CHANGES] It's a money issue. [SPEAKER CHANGES] It is a money issue. Justice Jackson? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think also hearing from the Business Court, I believe there's a bill pending to continue the expansion of the Business Court with two additional judges, and you mentioned trial court administrators, at some point. Currently the Chief Judge of the Business Court handles that function with his staff, there's really not a formal trial court administrator for that court, so that may be something that is going to need a look in the future. [SPEAKER CHANGES] All right, other questions? Yes, ma'am, Judge Felton? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'm new to the committee, so this might be something you've already talked about, something for the IT support for the courts in general and, of course, the computer systems are antiquated in so many places, and I know the people I've talked to in thew trial courts, for example, the Business Court here, there's a lot of information, statistics, and whatever that certainly we could use and the legislature would like to have, everyone would like to have, and they're being asked for information and keeping up with things, and they literally have to sit down at a table with paper and do it by hand because they don't have the computer systems that someone in the private sector would think that everyone has to generate reports. And so, like I said, I don't know all the technical details of that, but it's something, I think, that would make the system more efficient, we would be able to give the legislature the information that they would like about what the courts are doing. But when we're using antique systems it's very difficult for even anyone to get the information that they need. [SPEAKER CHANGES] So, IT and the courts, and particularly some data collection? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yeah, I mean, like I said, I was talking with the Business Court Administrator about that, and it's the same everywhere. I mean, they have more resources, certainly, than a lot the district courts, superior courts, etcetera throughout the state, and if it's a problem there, it's certainly a problem everywhere. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yeah, hopefully, yeah. Judge Smith, do you want to respond to that? You have something else you want to say? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I agree. I do have another matter at the end of the session if you don't. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Go ahead. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Are we close to the end? [SPEAKER CHANGES] We're getting close to the end, but we're not there yet and we're going to actually go ahead and get lunch brought in in just a minute, but I'll come, you can talk to me. Representative Moore? Hall? Representative Hall? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I just gained a lot of power, thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yeah, I'll let you be Tim Moore today. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I had a lot of great recommendations, and obviously a lot of them are going to cost money, which I'm afraid is going to be a problem once we get to Appropriations, but there was one we didn't talk much about, that we got on December 5th, from the Forsyth County online system that I think might save a lot of money, actually, if we could look at it closer to consider it, to expand it to other counties, possibly state-wide, that's one thing I'd like to look at again. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, and we did, we had AOC in there with us and we talked about it in Justice and Public Safety Appropriations. That is the system, and New Hanover's already starting to adopt it. AOC's trying to sort of look at something that might make it state-wide. But yes, you're right, we're very concerned about that. Judge Smith? [SPEAKER CHANGES] This is a little bit relevant, this is just a point of personal privilege. As you know, I've announced my retirement and this will be my last meeting, and I spent six years as an ex officio member of the Courts Commission, and it has been an honor, and I've enjoyed working with all of these
court's people here are my closest friends, and it's been a very rewarding thing. When I took the job, the technology issue was one of the motivating factors. I thought I saw a way to bring the courts into the modern times and would have the opportunity to do that. And the recession hit and it prolonged, and we've had nothing but cuts since I've been here. But as we talk about antiquated systems, we have to be mindful that the iPhone was invented in 2007. The iPad was invented in 2011. All of that occurred after I took the job, so we're looking at a whole new world, and it's going to be a real opportunity. And I see the economy improving, and the reception in the General Assembly has been very good, I'll say that. And I've staffed with Tom Murray back there to help Mildred Spearman. I've enjoyed working with the conferences. I see both represented here. But I just wanted to take a moment of Personal Privilege to talk about this. The needs of the court are fairly clear. They don't need to be studied. We do need to move ahead on virtual courtrooms. Actually, that goes beyond the eFiling alone. There's a technology out there that's a gold mine for us. And my successor will have the opportunity to do that. And my one regret in life is that there comes a time to move on, and it looks like this is a very good time for me to do that. There are other things I'd like to do. I appreciate the comments about eFiling, about virtual courtrooms, about data collection, because all of those things can synergize very quickly. And I think that our long term strategy had that vision and it should have been done three years ago, and had the economy improved at the rate we normally get out of recessions, I think Mike Crewel back there can attest that generally after recessions, courts fare very well. But after this particular recession, it's been a long time coming. So I wish to thank the Chair. One of the benefits of having the job is getting to work with folks of your quality, and getting to know you, and I'll take that with me, and I value it greatly. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you. Thank you. Mr. Kemp. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Hate to follow Judge Smith with another suggestion, but I do have a couple suggestions for our agenda. One is maybe let the General Assembly know, or just put us out there as an option. I know occasionally they'll have study commissions. So if they need to study an issue with regard to the court system, since we're already constituted, and we're willing to come to these meetings and work, I think we're a good option that's already formed. Because I know half the battle is forming these commissions and committees. The second thing is, it's my understanding from listening to the Chief Justice comments, that at some point, probably in the future, there will be a commission of his own. And as long as we can do our best to not only assist the Chief Justice, but to work together and maybe help each other out, than working at cross purposes. That's it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Nobody else seems to have the same issue that my little county has, and we're really unhappy with district court criminal mediators. Nobody else having an issue with that? Apparently we've put in enough restriction at this point that the mediator sees them before they're even advised of counsel. Mediators are frequently taking steps that are, there's just question. There's a question about how much information the district court mediator has been sharing with either the attorneys or the DA or whatever. There's questions about their training and ability. And then they come back every year and sort of get a little more strength. They came last year and wanted the dismissal that they get as contingent on the $60 fee being paid. Some issues that my little local bar, particularly as they've gotten into the reduced court appointed fees and court appointed cases, have just really taken personally. So, Justice Jackson? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, before I served on this commission, I had the benefit of serving on the Dispute Resolution Commission, which certifies those mediators. So I don't know if maybe this is an issue to bring to those folks to express concerns about that, because I know they are very, very
Concerned about mediators and ethics of mediators, if there’s an ethical issue going on there. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, this is, this is the, and I don’t know the training because I’ve, I’ve even perhaps broached the issue of could we let court-appointed attorneys to have some mediation training to deal with these issues. The mediation centers want to keep that; that’s sort of their source of funding. And I don’t know if they are certified mediators. Perhaps I’d like to hear more about and maybe it’s not something you’re interested in. But that’s what I wanted to do is open up and think about any issues that are here, so why don’t we take about a 15 minute break. We’re gonna get lunch out here in the meantime and then we’ll come back. That’s all I want to talk about is are there other issues. I want you to find other issues. It’s, it’s a little early for lunch, but it can be a working, talking through lunch. So we will stand at ease.