RALEIGH — North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin delivered his State of the Judiciary address Saturday in Asheville to the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), highlighting recommendations made by the N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice’s final report that seek to improve the state judicial system in a modern world.
“Our society is experiencing rapid change, and our state’s court system and judicial officials are working hard to maintain high standards of access, fairness and impartiality,” Martin said. “The judicial branch has made progress in its pursuit of justice for all, and now it’s positioned to pursue more reforms to help the court system meet 21st century demands and expectations.”
The recommendations — some of which can be made by the judicial branch, others requiring legislative action — included “raise the age” efforts that would not require 16- and 17-year-olds to be tried automatically as adults for nonviolent offenses, which was part of the compromise budget sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature last week. Cooper, a Democrat, vetoed the budget Tuesday, but the Republican-led General Assembly has the votes to override his veto and said they plan to do so.
Martin also called for a statewide referendum on how judges are chosen, calling for merit-based selection.
“Let’s step away from ordinary politics and let the people decide whether our judges should be chosen through a merit selection process rather than partisan elections,” Martin said.
Caryn Coppedge McNeill was sworn in as president of the NCBA at Saturday’s event. McNeill, a partner with Smith Anderson in Raleigh, is the 123rd president of the NCBA and said she wants to increase pro bono work for those needing representation.
“The NCBA is a community where attorneys come together to make a difference for our profession and the public,” McNeill said. “This year, we will redouble our efforts to be ‘a power for great good’ in our state.”