North Carolina’s Judicial System, like many others across the country, is facing tight fiscal restraints that have resulted in mandated job cuts. In fact, over 550 jobs have been trimmed from the State Judicial Department alone. This has led to delayed hearings at both the state and county level since there is a shortage of manpower to handle the work.
Todd Nuccio, Trial Court Administrator of Mecklenburg County, spoke about the lack of funds, stating that it “is a slow dismantling of our court system.” Cases related to drunk driving are being dragged out for up to a year because there is a backlog for processing blood tests in the state crime lab. Trials at the county level are also experiencing delays due to the non-availability of court reporters. Two court reporters recently quit after they were forced to take salary cuts.
The good news is that things are looking up as the new General Assembly Session gets underway. New Supreme Court Chief Mark Martin, along with other legislative leaders, has made court funding a top priority for the next fiscal year. Martin is currently seeking an increase of the $30 million the budget, with $15 million set aside for operation costs and the other $15 million for salary adjustments.
Judge Martin is also seeking funding for hundreds of court related jobs for counties state wide, and plans to introduce an electronic court filings initiative, which would help cut down on operational costs. The courts have been fully reliant on paper filings for the last 50 years, which requires a considerable amount of manpower and has a higher percentage of human error in recording.
Martin isn’t the only one who is pushing for funding, however. Former Democratic State Senator Scott Thomas went on record to say that, “The folks in the courts want to be good partners and try to do more with less, and we have done that now for longer than we probably should have.”
It remains to be seen, however, how soon the government can increase funding for the state’s judicial department.