Address to the

NORTH CAROLINA BAR ASSOCIATION

at its

100TH ANNUAL MEETING

by

CHIEF JUSTICE BURLEY B. MITCHELL, JR.

NORTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT

June 19, 1999

Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC

 

IT IS A GREAT HONOR FOR ME TO APPEAR AS CHIEF JUSTICE AND GIVE YOU MY ANNUAL UPDATE ON THE STATE OF THE JUDICIARY IN NORTH CAROLINA AS A PART OF THIS HISTORIC 100TH ANNUAL MEETING OF THE NORTH CAROLINA BAR ASSOCIATION. FOR ONE HUNDRED YEARS, THE OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF THIS ASSOCIATION HAVE WORKED WITH THE JUDICIARY AS OUR PARTNERS AND PERSONAL FRIENDS IN OUR QUEST TO CONSTANTLY IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF JUSTICE IN NORTH CAROLINA. FOR THAT REASON, I AM PARTICULARLY PLEASED TO REPORT TO THIS GROUP THAT THE STATE OF THE NORTH CAROLINA JUDICIARY IS GOOD.

I MUST FIRST TELL YOU ABOUT THE WORK OF MY OWN COURT, SINCE THAT IS WHERE THE GREATEST PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE. WHEN I BECAME CHIEF JUSTICE FOUR YEARS AGO, WE HAD BEEN THROUGH A LONG PERIOD IN WHICH MORE APPEALS WERE FILED WITH THE SUPREME COURT THAN WE DISPOSED OF EACH YEAR. THE JUSTICES OF YOUR SUPREME COURT RESOLVED TOGETHER TO CHANGE THAT EMBARRASSING FACT, AND THEY HAVE. IN EVERY ONE OF THE PAST FOUR YEARS, WE HAVE DECIDED MORE APPEALS BY FULL WRITTEN OPINIONS THAN HAVE BEEN FILED WITH THE COURT. WE NOW HAVE NO BACKLOG IN THE SUPREME COURT AND ARE ABLE TO SET CASES FOR ORAL ARGUMENTS IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE FILING OF BRIEFS BY THE PARTIES. I HOPE YOU WILL FORGIVE ME THE SIN OF PRIDE, BUT I AM PROUD TO REPORT TO YOU THAT SINCE YOUR SUPREME COURT WAS FIRST FORMED ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY YEARS AGO, IT HAS NEVER BEEN MORE CURRENT IN ITS WORK THAN IT IS AT THIS MOMENT.

THE PERFORMANCE OF THE NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS HAS ALSO BEEN EXTRAORDINARY. LAST YEAR, 1,640 APPEALS WERE FILED WITH THAT COURT. DURING THE SAME PERIOD, THE TWELVE JUDGES OF THAT COURT DISPOSED OF 1,662 CASES FOR A NET REDUCTION IN PENDING APPEALS. ALTHOUGH I ONCE SERVED ON THE COURT OF APPEALS, I STILL FIND IT DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE THAT EACH JUDGE OF THAT COURT PRODUCES MORE THAN 120 FULL WRITTEN OPINIONS EACH YEAR, BUT SOMEHOW THEY DO.

MY DUTIES WITH THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF CHIEF JUSTICES KEEP ME PRETTY WELL INFORMED ON SUCH MATTERS, AND I HAVE NOT IDENTIFIED ANY OTHER STATE OR FEDERAL APPELLATE COURT IN AMERICA WHERE THE INDIVIDUAL JUDGES WRITE AS MANY OPINIONS AS OUR COURT OF APPEALS JUDGES. I BELIEVE IT IS ACCURATE TO SAY THAT THE TWELVE JUDGES OF THE NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS ARE THE MOST PRODUCTIVE APPELLATE JUDGES IN AMERICA. I COMMEND EACH OF THEM FOR THEIR EFFORTS.

THE PICTURE WITH REGARD TO OUR TRIAL COURTS -- THE COURTS OF MOST INTEREST TO THE ORDINARY CITIZEN -- IS LESS ENCOURAGING BUT STILL GOOD. TWICE SINCE BECOMING CHIEF JUSTICE, I HAVE HALTED THE ROTATION OF SUPERIOR COURT JUDGES AND SENT ALL OF THEM TO THEIR HOME DISTRICTS TO DEAL WITH CASE BACKLOGS. THE RESULT EACH TIME WAS THAT ALMOST ALL OF THEM WERE ABLE TO BRING THEIR CASELOADS INTO CURRENT STATUS. BUT WE ARE BEGINNING TO SLOWLY FALL BEHIND AGAIN IN BOTH THE SUPERIOR AND DISTRICT COURTS.

IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS, CASE FILINGS HAVE INCREASED BY APPROXIMATELY 16% IN OUR SUPERIOR AND DISTRICT COURTS. LAST YEAR, MORE THAN 284,000 CASES WERE FILED IN OUR SUPERIOR COURTS. DESPITE THIS TREMENDOUS INFLUX, OUR SUPERIOR COURTS WERE ABLE TO DISPOSE OF 97% OF THAT NUMBER OF CASES. MORE THAN 2.5 MILLION CASES WERE FILED IN OUR DISTRICT COURTS. OUR DISTRICT COURTS, AS INCREDIBLE AS IT MAY SEEM, WERE ABLE TO DISPOSE OF 99.7% OF THAT NUMBER OF CASES. OUR TRIAL COURTS ARE STRUGGLING BUT HOLDING THEIR OWN.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOUR JUDICIARY IS DOING VERY WELL OVERALL. BUT THERE WILL BE MUCH WORK FOR US TO DO IN THE NEXT CENTURY IF THIS IS TO CONTINUE.

ONE OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES FACING US IN THE NEXT CENTURY WILL BE TO RENEW THE COMMITMENT OF ALL LAWYERS TO THE CONCEPT OF PROFESSIONALISM -- MOST ESPECIALLY, PROFESSIONALISM IN THE COURTROOM. I SINCERELY THANK THE OFFICERS OF THIS ASSOCIATION FOR THE RESOLUTION YOU RECENTLY PASSED REGARDING PROFESSIONALISM AND DECORUM IN THE COURTROOM. YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT TO CALL ON JUDGES AND LAWYERS TO REDEDICATE THEMSELVES TO STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH RULE 12 OF THE GENERAL RULES OF PRACTICE FOR THE SUPERIOR AND DISTRICT COURTS.

ALL OF US HAVE BECOME CONCERNED IN RECENT YEARS ABOUT THE CASUAL OR SOMETIMES RUDE ATTITUDES, AND AT TIMES DOWNRIGHT SLOVENLY APPEARANCE, DEMONSTRATED BY SOME PARTIES AND LAWYERS IN OUR DISTRICT COURTS. THE SAME PROBLEMS ARE PRESENT, TO A LESSER EXTENT, IN OUR SUPERIOR COURTS AND EVEN IN THE APPELLATE DIVISION. STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH RULE 12 AND THE CORRESPONDING JUDICIAL CANONS AND RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT WILL BRING BACK DECORUM AND SIMPLE CIVILITY TO OUR COURTROOMS. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY IF OUR COURTS ARE TO PROVIDE

THE CALM AND RATIONAL FORUM NECESSARY TO THE PROPER AND FAIR ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.

I PARTICULARLY WANT TO THANK IN THIS REGARD BOB ELSTER, WHO CHAIRS THE PROFESSIONALISM COMMITTEE OF THIS ASSOCIATION. BOB HAS PREPARED A VIDEOTAPE DEALING WITH PROFESSIONALISM AND DECORUM UNDER RULE 12 WHICH IS VERY BRIEF, BUT SAYS IT ALL. IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT, I URGE EACH OF YOU TO DO SO.

LIKE YOU, THE SUPREME COURT IS CONCERNED WITH THE DECLINE OF PROFESSIONALISM AND COURTROOM DECORUM. RECENTLY, AT THE URGING OF THEN-PRESIDENT BILL KING AND THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR, THE COURT ENTERED AN ORDER CREATING THE CHIEF JUSTICEíS COMMISSION ON PROFESSIONALISM. AMONG ITS DUTIES WILL BE THE DUTY TO PULL TOGETHER ALL OF THE GROUPS WITHIN THE PROFESSION CURRENTLY WORKING ON IMPROVING PROFESSIONALISM AND TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TOWARD ACHIEVING THAT GOAL.

I AM VERY PROUD OF THE CALIBER OF CITIZENS WHO HAVE AGREED TO SERVE ON THAT SIXTEEN-MEMBER COMMISSION. THE THREE CITIZEN MEMBERS ARE WILLIAM C. FRIDAY, PRESIDENT EMERITUS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, PHIL KIRK, PRESIDENT OF NORTH CAROLINA CITIZENS FOR BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY, AND DR. LLOYD HACKLEY, CHAIR OF THE NATIONAL CHARACTER COUNTS COALITION AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE NORTH CAROLINA COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM. THE LAWYERS WHO SERVE ON THE COMMISSION ALSO HAVE WELL ESTABLISHED RECORDS AS PROVEN STATE AND NATIONAL LEADERS OF GREAT ACHIEVEMENT IN THE AREA OF PROFESSIONALISM. THEY ARE LEADERS OF MANY STATE AND NATIONAL LEGAL ASSOCIATIONS. THEY INCLUDE BETTY QUICK, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THIS NORTH CAROLINA BAR ASSOCIATION, AND A.P. CARLTON WHO WE HOPE WILL SOON BE PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION. I SOUGHT TO APPOINT RECOGNIZED LEADERS OF SUCH HIGH PUBLIC ACHIEVEMENT THAT ANYONE WHO SAW THE LIST OF THE COMMISSIONíS MEMBERSHIP WOULD KNOW THAT THE SUPREME COURT IS SERIOUS ABOUT REINSTILLING PROFESSIONALISM AMONG LAWYERS AND RETURNING DECORUM TO OUR

COURTROOMS. TO THIS EXTENT, I AM CONFIDENT THAT I HAVE SUCCEEDED.

THE CHIEF JUSTICEíS COMMISSION ON PROFESSIONALISM WILL SERVE AS A PERMANENT ARM OF THE SUPREME COURT. JERRY PARNELL, BETTY QUICK AND I ARE CURRENTLY WORKING WITH A FEW OTHERS TO SELECT A DIRECTOR FOR THE COMMISSION.

AT THE FIRST MEETING OF THE COMMISSION, THE MEMBERS QUICKLY REACHED CONSENSUS ON THE VIEW THAT ANY BREAKDOWN IN CIVILITY AND DECORUM HAS BEEN DUE IN PART TO THE EVER-INCREASING ANXIETY AND STRESS PLACED UPON LAWYERS BY THE DEMANDS OF MODERN LAW PRACTICE. THE COMMISSION CONCLUDED THAT ONE OF THE BEST IMMEDIATE WAYS TO ADDRESS THIS PROBLEM WAS FOR THE SUPREME COURT TO ADOPT A UNIFORM RULE FOR ALL OF THE COURTS OF THE STATE WHICH WOULD GUARANTEE EVERY ATTORNEY THREE FULL WEEKS OF SECURED LEAVE TIME EACH YEAR. DURING THOSE WEEKS THE ATTORNEY WOULD NOT HAVE TO APPEAR IN COURT OR CONDUCT DEPOSITIONS OR OTHER COURT-RELATED HEARINGS. THE COMMISSION FELT THAT GIVING LAWYERS SUCH BRIEF PERIODS OF DOWN-TIME TO BE WITH THEIR FAMILIES OR TO SIMPLY REFLECT ON THEIR PERSONAL LIVES WOULD GO A LONG WAY TOWARD REDUCING STRESS ON THEM AND IMPROVING CIVILITY AND DECORUM IN OUR COURTS. ADDITIONALLY, THE COMMISSION SUGGESTED THAT SUCH A SYSTEM OF SECURED LEAVE WOULD MAKE THE COURTS FUNCTION MORE EFFICIENTLY BY REDUCING THE NUMBER OF UNANTICIPATED CONTINUANCES OF CIVIL AND CRIMINAL CASES AND THE RESULTING HARDSHIPS ON COUNSEL, PARTIES, WITNESSES AND JURORS.

IN RESPONSE TO THE COMMISSIONíS RECOMMENDATION, THE SUPREME COURT HAS ADOPTED A STATEWIDE RULE FOR THE STATEíS TRIAL AND APPELLATE COURTS WHICH GUARANTEES EVERY ATTORNEY THREE WEEKS OF TIME FREE FROM THE DEMANDS OF THE COURTS. IN ORDER TO BE ASSURED THE LEAVE TIME HE OR SHE SELECTS, THE ATTORNEY MUST GIVE ADVANCE NOTICE TO THE COURTS BEFORE ANY MATTERS CONCERNING THEIR CASES HAVE BEEN CALENDARED FOR THAT TIME. ATTORNEYS WILL STILL BE FREE, OF COURSE, TO SCHEDULE VACATIONS OR OTHER MATTERS AT TIMES THEY DO NOT RESERVE. HOWEVER, IF THEY DO SO, THEY WILL BE SUBJECT, AS IN THE PAST, TO THEIR PLANS BEING DISRUPTED BY A CASE BEING SET FOR TRIAL OR THE TAKING OF DEPOSITIONS.

THE ADOPTION OF THIS ONE SIMPLE POLICY WAS A DIRECT RESULT OF THE COMMISSIONíS FIRST MEETING. IT DEMONSTRATES THAT THE COMMISSION WILL BE AN ACTION GROUP DEVOTED TO THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE PROFESSION AND NOT SIMPLY ONE MORE STUDY GROUP WHOSE WHITE PAPERS ARE SHELVED AND NEVER ACTED ON. THE SUPREME COURT INTENDS TO TREAT ALL OF THE COMMISSIONíS RECOMMENDATIONS MOST SERIOUSLY, AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO IMPLEMENTING MORE OF THEM. I AM TREMENDOUSLY ENCOURAGED BY THE WORK OF THE COMMISSION, AND I URGE ALL OF YOU TO WORK THROUGH THE COMMISSION IN THE COMING CENTURY FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR PROFESSION.

I NOW REACH THE TOPIC OF JUDICIAL SELECTION AND RETENTION -- THE LAST TOPIC I WILL DISCUSS WITH YOU TODAY. SENATE BILL 12, INTRODUCED BY SENATOR FOUNTAIN ODOM OF MECKLENBURG COUNTY, HAS PASSED THE NORTH CAROLINA SENATE BY THE THREE-FIFTHS MAJORITY REQUIRED FOR A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION AND IS NOW PENDING BEFORE THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. THAT BILL WILL AFFECT ONLY THE NINETEEN JUSTICES AND JUDGES OF THE SUPREME COURT AND COURT OF APPEALS. THIS IS SO BECAUSE LITERALLY EVERYONE INVOLVED HAS AGREED THAT THERE IS NO CHANCE AT THIS TIME TO PASS SUCH AN AMENDMENT WHICH WOULD AFFECT ALL OF THE JUDICIARY. THE PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT WOULD BE PLACED ON THE BALLOT AT THE GENERAL ELECTION HELD IN NOVEMBER OF 2000. IF PASSED, IT WOULD TAKE EFFECT ON JANUARY 1, 2001.

SENATE BILL 12 PROPOSES A SYSTEM WHEREBY THE GOVERNOR WOULD INITIALLY APPOINT APPELLATE JUSTICES AND JUDGES. THE GOVERNORíS APPOINTEE WOULD TAKE OFFICE IMMEDIATELY BUT WOULD THEN BE REQUIRED TO PARTICIPATE IN A NON-PARTISAN RETENTION ELECTION AT THE NEXT STATEWIDE ELECTION TO BE HELD MORE THAN EIGHTEEN MONTHS AFTER THE APPOINTMENT. AT THAT ELECTION, THE VOTERS WOULD VOTE "YES" OR "NO" AS TO WHETHER THE JUSTICE OR JUDGE SHOULD BE RETAINED.

THIS PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT IS THE CLOSEST THING TO THE TRUE "MERIT SYSTEM" RECOMMENDED BY THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION AND THE NORTH CAROLINA BAR ASSOCIATION THAT HAS EVER GOTTEN THIS FAR IN THE LEGISLATURE. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT IT IS THE MOST NEARLY PERFECT "MERIT" PROPOSAL WE SHALL SEE. THE GOVERNOR WILL SUPPORT IT, AND ALL NINETEEN JUSTICES AND JUDGES OF THE SUPREME COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS ENDORSE THIS BILL. ALL OF US HAVE SIGNED A JOINT LETTER TO THE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY INDICATING OUR UNANIMOUS AND STRONG SUPPORT FOR ITS PASSAGE.

IN ORDER TO PASS THE HOUSE, IT MUST HAVE THREE-FIFTHS OF THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE HOUSE -- NOT JUST THREE-FIFTHS OF THOSE PRESENT AND VOTING. IT IS ALWAYS DIFFICULT TO GET 72 MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE ACTUALLY PRESENT ON THE FLOOR AND VOTING "YES" FOR ANY PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT, AND THIS ONE WILL BE NO DIFFERENT. ALL OF US IN THE APPELLATE JUDICIARY -- WITHOUT EXCEPTION -- URGE EACH OF YOU TO TALK TO YOUR INDIVIDUAL LEGISLATORS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AND GIVE THIS BILL YOUR FULL SUPPORT. IT IS AS CLOSE TO WHAT THIS ASSOCIATION HAS VIEWED AS A PERFECT SYSTEM AS WILL EVER BE SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

WHEN I WAS THE YOUNG AND SOMETIMES IMPETUOUS DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR WAKE COUNTY, I FREELY SHARED MY VIEWS ON ALMOST ANYTHING. ONCE, IN CHAMBERS AFTER A RULING HAD GONE AGAINST ME, I EXPLAINED TO A JUDGE EXACTLY WHERE HE HAD GONE WRONG AND WHY. AS WE LEFT THE CHAMBERS, THE OLDER LAWYER WHO HAD BEEN MY ADVERSARY SHARED SOME WISDOM WITH ME WHICH I WANT TO ASK YOU TO TAKE TO HEART TODAY. HE TOLD ME, "BURLEY, YOU KNOW, IT IS PERMISSIBLE IN LIFE IF YOU EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE HAVE A THOUGHT CROSS YOUR MIND WITHOUT EXPRESSING IT." IF, AFTER CONSIDERING THE SYSTEM PROPOSED BY SENATE BILL 12, YOU FIND THAT IT IS NOT QUITE PERFECT ENOUGH TO SATISFY

YOU, I VERY STRONGLY REQUEST THAT YOU FOLLOW THAT OLD LAWYERíS WORD OF WISDOM.

OUR CURRENT SYSTEM HAS BEGUN TO ACTIVELY HARM THE JUDICIARY. WE HAVE SEEN EXCELLENT JUDGES AND JUSTICES OF BOTH PARTIES SWEPT OUT OF OFFICE PURELY FOR REASONS ENTIRELY UNRELATED TO THEIR PERFORMANCE IN OFFICE. WE ARE THE ONLY NINETEEN JUDICIAL OFFICERS WHO STILL MUST FACE PARTISAN STATEWIDE ELECTIONS. ALTHOUGH IN OUR OWN MINDS WE SHOULD PERHAPS BE HOUSEHOLD NAMES, WE HAVE COME TO REALIZE THAT ALMOST NO ONE KNOWS ANY OF US. IT IS AN INCONTROVERTIBLE FACT THAT THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE WHO VOTE FOR THE APPELLATE JUDICIARY DO SO ALONG STRICT PARTY LINES WITH NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE CANDIDATES. THIS IS A PRESCRIPTION FOR DISASTER FOR THE JUDGES, THE POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC IN A STATE SUCH AS OURS IN WHICH THE TWO PARTIES ARE SO NEARLY IN BALANCE.

ONLY RUSSIA, SWITZERLAND AND THE UNITED STATES ELECT ANY APPELLATE JUDGES. HERE, ONLY A SMALL HANDFUL OF STATES STILL ELECT THEIR APPELLATE JUDGES BY STATEWIDE PARTISAN ELECTIONS. STUDY AFTER STUDY HAS SHOWN THAT THE PUBLIC OF NORTH CAROLINA SIMPLY IS NOT INFORMED ABOUT STATEWIDE JUDICIAL CANDIDATES FOR OUR APPELLATE COURTS. THE GREAT MAJORITY OF OUR CITIZENS NEVER BOTHER TO MARK THEIR BALLOTS FOR EITHER CANDIDATE IN ELECTIONS FOR APPELLATE JUDGES OR JUSTICES. THIS MAKES IT VERY EASY FOR SINGLE ISSUE GROUPS OF THE RIGHT AND LEFT, WHICH CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS EXTREME, TO HAVE AN IMPACT ON APPELLATE JUDICIAL ELECTIONS FAR DISPROPORTIONATE TO THEIR NUMBERS OR TO THE PUBLICíS ACCEPTANCE OF THEIR VIEWS.

WE CURRENTLY HAVE EXCELLENT JUDGES OF BOTH MAJOR PARTIES SERVING IN THE APPELLATE COURTS OF NORTH CAROLINA. I BELIEVE THOUGH THAT ALL OF THEM NOW FACE THE VERY REAL POSSIBILITY OF BEING REMOVED FROM OFFICE IN MID-CAREER SOLELY FOR REASONS ENTIRELY UNRELATED TO THEIR PERFORMANCE AS JUDGES.

ANY CHANGE WILL NOT APPLY TO ME PERSONALLY. I HAVE BEEN BLESSED TO HAVE BEEN ELECTED SIX TIMES STATEWIDE TO JUDICIAL OFFICE. HAVING COMPLETED THIRTY YEARS OF PUBLIC SERVICE, I DO NOT INTEND TO SEEK REELECTION WHEN MY CURRENT TERM EXPIRES AT THE END OF 2004. HOWEVER, AS A CITIZEN AND AS ONE WHO HAS DEVOTED THIRTY YEARS TO OUR SYSTEM OF JUSTICE, I WILL ALWAYS BE DEEPLY COMMITTED TO THE WELFARE OF THE PUBLIC AND ITS COURTS. NOT SINCE 1868

-- 131 YEARS AGO -- HAVE OUR PEOPLE BEEN ALLOWED TO VOTE ON WHETHER THEY WISH A BETTER SYSTEM OF SELECTING AND RETAINING APPELLATE JUDGES. I IMPLORE YOU TO CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS IMMEDIATELY AND URGE THEM TO GIVE THE PEOPLE OF NORTH CAROLINA THE RIGHT TO VOTE ON THIS ISSUE AT THE GENERAL ELECTION NEXT YEAR.

IN CLOSING, I WANT TO THANK THE MEMBERS OF THIS GREAT NORTH CAROLINA BAR ASSOCIATION FOR YOUR UNWAVERING SUPPORT OF THE JUDICIARY AND NORTH CAROLINAíS SYSTEM OF JUSTICE FOR THE LAST ONE HUNDRED YEARS. FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE 1960íS, AT YOUR URGING, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TOOK GREAT POLITICAL RISKS WHEN IT ABOLISHED A HODGEPODGE OF VERY PROVINCIAL LOCAL COURTS AND CREATED OUR UNIFIED COURT SYSTEM WHICH BECAME THE MODEL FOR THE NATION. AT EVERY REALLY CRITICAL POINT SINCE THAT TIME, YOU HAVE HELPED TO MAKE THE PROMISE OF THAT COURT REFORM ACT COME TRUE. THE JUDICIAL BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT AND THE CITIZENS OF NORTH CAROLINA ARE INDEBTED TO YOU FOR THIS.

I AM CONFIDENT THAT IN THE NEXT CENTURY THIS NORTH CAROLINA BAR ASSOCIATION WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT FOR THE CAUSE OF JUSTICE IN NORTH CAROLINA. YOU HAVE ALWAYS DONE SO THROUGHOUT YOUR FIRST ONE HUNDRED YEARS, AND I KNOW YOU WILL NEVER LET THE PEOPLE OF THIS STATE DOWN. AS ONE MEMBER OF THIS ASSOCIATION, I ASSURE YOU THAT I WILL DEVOTE THE REST OF MY LIFE TO JOINING YOU IN THAT EFFORT. I AM PROUD OF THIS ASSOCIATION AND VERY PROUD TO BE A MEMBER. I WISH YOU THE VERY BEST FOR YOUR NEXT CENTURY AND THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS TIME WITH ME TODAY.