Local News

N.C. Courts Considering Cutbacks

Posted October 23, 2001

— Budget cuts could force the

state's court system

to make some changes.

North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake is seriously considering layoffs and closing county courthouses one day a week to address a severe budget crunch.

The money pinch is forcing such cost-cutting measures as:

  • Opening courthouses later in the day
  • Closing most county courthouses on Fridays, forcing more than 6,000 court employees around the state to either take a vacation day or give up a day's pay
  • Layoffs of some court employees
  • Cutting several court programs, involving sentencing and probation and

    Guardian ad Litem

  • The possibility has drawn quick and sharp reaction from the legal system.

    "Domestic violence cases people are lined up right now that are here to file cases to get an order today," said Clerk of Court John Kennedy.

    People come to the courthouse to pay fines and file lawsuits every day. Kennedy says closing the courthouse every Friday is not a good idea.

    Defense attorney Bob Hensley agrees.

    "You would have judges falling out. You would have clerks that wouldn't be able to work effectively, and you would have police officers that couldn't make their court date," he said.

    Whether trying to pay a traffic ticket or file paperwork, the measures would mean some inconvenience to the public.

    "I certainly don't want to be an alarmist, but we've got to be realistic," said Lake. "We just can't keep up with the load. We don't have the personnel and the technology. As I told the General Assembly back in March, our technology was old and worn out five years ago."

    Trials and hearings are matters of scheduling by judges and prosecutors. It is unclear how shutting down the courthouse every Friday would impact long-running jury trials.

    Courts in larger counties are expected to be hit the hardest. For example, Wake County District Court handles 1,500 cases a day.

    A decision on budget cuts at courthouses is expected to be announced later this week.

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