Remarks of

CHIEF JUSTICE HENRY E. FRYE

SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA

to the

NORTH CAROLINA STATE BAR

22 October 1999

 

 

THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME TO SPEAK TO YOU THIS MORNING.  AS YOU KNOW, I BECAME CHIEF JUSTICE ON SEPTEMBER FIRST OF THIS YEAR, FOLLOWING THE RETIREMENT OF CHIEF JUSTICE MITCHELL.  I THANK HIM FOR ALL OF THE HELP THAT HE GAVE TO ME IN HELPING ME TO PREPARE FOR THIS POSITION.

 

I THANK YOU, THE OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF THE STATE BAR COUNCIL, AND ALL OF THOSE WHO WORK ON THE VARIOUS COMMITTEES OF THE BAR, FOR THE FINE WORK YOU GIVE SO FREELY FOR THE GOOD OF THE PROFESSION AND FOR THE GOOD OF THE STATE.  YOU ARE THE CONSUMMATE VOLUNTEERS.

 

LAST YEAR CHIEF JUSTICE MITCHELL COMMENTED THAT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY WAS STILL IN SESSION AT THE TIME OF YOUR ANNUAL MEETING.  I AM HAPPY TO REPORT THAT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY HAS COMPLETED ITS REGULAR SESSION AND THAT OUR BUDGET WAS APPROVED PRIOR TO THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW FISCAL YEAR.  THIS HAS PERMITTED US TO PLAN AND OPERATE THE COURTS IN A MORE ORDERLY FASHION. 

                

  HURRICANE FLOYD


ALONG WITH ALL THE PEOPLE OF EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA, THE COURTS WERE SEVERELY AFFECTED BY THE FLOODS THAT CAME IN THE WAKE OF HURRICANE FLOYD.  I KNOW MANY OF YOUR MEMBERS SUFFERED SERIOUS LOSSES, AND I EXTEND TO EACH OF THEM MY SYMPATHY AND SUPPORT.  THE COURT SYSTEM ALSO SUFFERED, AS SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT WERE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED, COURT RECORDS WERE DAMAGED, COURTHOUSES REMAINED CLOSED AND NUMEROUS SESSIONS OF COURT WERE CANCELLED.  ONLY YESTERDAY WERE THE COURTS OF EDGECOMBE COUNTY ABLE TO RESUME A SEMBLANCE OF NORMAL OPERATIONS IN THE TARBORO COURTHOUSE.

 

TO ALLOW OUR JUDGES TO DEAL WITH FLOOD CONDITIONS IN THEIR HOME DISTRICTS, I SUSPENDED SUPERIOR COURT ROTATION IN THE FIRST DIVISION THROUGH THE END OF OCTOBER.  WE NOW FACE THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING UP THE MANY MISSED SESSIONS OF COURT.  LOCAL JUDICIAL OFFICIALS WILL BE WORKING WITH THE MEMBERS OF THE BAR IN EACH DISTRICT TO DEVELOP REALISTIC PLANS FOR DOING THIS.

 

  TECHNOLOGY

 

TECHNOLOGY IS, OF COURSE, THE CENTRAL FORCE DRIVING OUR MODERN SOCIETY.  FOR MANY YEARS, MY PREDECESSORS IN OFFICE HAVE STRESSED TO YOU THE TECHNOLOGY NEEDS OF THE COURTS, AND HAVE ENLISTED YOUR SUPPORT IN PERSUADING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO PROVIDE THE RESOURCES TO MEET THOSE NEEDS.  I WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO.

 

OUR TECHNOLOGY RESOURCES ARE, INDEED, LIMITED, AND IN MANY RESPECTS OUTDATED.  OUR NEEDS CONTINUE TO GROW.  HOWEVER, AS I COME INTO OFFICE, I AM IMPRESSED WITH HOW MUCH WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DO WITH OUR LIMITED RESOURCES, AND WITH THE COMPETENCE AND HARD WORK OF THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THIS HAPPEN.  LET ME GIVE YOU JUST A FEW EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED IN THE LAST YEAR:

 

WE ARE NOW 100% Y2K COMPLIANT IN ALL MAJOR PROGRAMS, AND THIS HAS BEEN DONE WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL FUNDING EARMARKED FOR THIS PURPOSE.

 

WE HAVE UPDATED AND UPGRADED OUR MAIN DATA CENTER TO HANDLE THE CONTINUALLY INCREASING WORKLOAD OF THE COURTS

 


WE ARE DEVELOPING A COMPREHENSIVE DISASTER RECOVERY PLAN FOR OUR MAINFRAME AND OTHER DATA STORAGE FACILITIES.

 

WE CONTINUE TO DEVELOP AND INSTALL AUTOMATED SYSTEMS TO ENABLE JUDICIAL OFFICIALS TO CARRY OUR THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES MORE EFFICIENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY.  HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES:

 

OUR MAGISTRATES' WARRANT SYSTEM HAS NOW BEEN INSTALLED IN 19 COUNTIES.  THIS SYSTEM ENABLES THE MAGISTRATE TO COMPOSE A WARRANT ON A COMPUTER, PRINT IT OUT FOR THE OFFICER TO SERVE, AND SIMULTANEOUSLY ENTER RELEVANT DATA ABOUT THE CHARGES INTO THE OFFICIAL COURT RECORDS.  THIS SYSTEM IS AN ESSENTIAL BUILDING BLOCK IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF A STATEWIDE CRIMINAL JUSTICE INFORMATION NETWORK FOR ALL COURT AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES.  WE WILL CONTINUE TO EXPAND IT INTO THE REST OF THE STATE DURING THIS FISCAL YEAR.

 

OUR COURT-FLOW SYSTEM FOR ENTERING JUDGMENTS IN CRIMINAL CASES IS NOW IN OPERATION IN ABOUT HALF OUR COUNTIES.  THIS SYSTEM ALLOWS THE TRIAL COURT TO CALL UP A BLANK CRIMINAL JUDGMENT FORM ON A COMPUTER SCREEN, DOWNLOAD RELEVANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE DEFENDANT AND THE CHARGES FROM THE CASE FILE INTO THE JUDGMENT FORM, COMPLETE THE JUDGMENT, AND UPLOAD RELEVANT DISPOSITION INFORMATION INTO THE OFFICIAL COURT RECORDS.

 


OUR BOND FORFEITURE SYSTEM IS ALSO IN USE IN ABOUT HALF OUR COUNTIES.  THIS SYSTEM GREATLY FACILITATES THE PROCESSING OF CRIMINAL APPEARANCE BOND FORFEITURES IN THE CLERK'S OFFICE AND IN COURT.

 

IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE HIGHWAY PATROL, WE WILL BE PILOTING ELECTRONIC TRAFFIC CITATIONS IN CUMBERLAND COUNTY BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR.  THE HIGHWAY PATROL OFFICER WILL CREATE THE CITATION ON A LAPTOP COMPUTER IN THE PATROL CAR, PRINT A COPY FOR THE DEFENDANT, AND TRANSMIT ALL RELEVANT INFORMATION ELECTRONICALLY TO THE COURT, WHERE IT WILL BE RETAINED IN ELECTRONIC FORM UNTIL HARD COPY IS NEEDED.

 

WE ARE IMPLEMENTING A PILOT PROGRAM IN WAKE COUNTY THAT WILL ENABLE DEFENDANTS IN TRAFFIC CASES TO EFFECT WAIVERS AND PAY A FINE AND COSTS THROUGH A REMOTE-ACCESS, TELEPHONE-OPERATED SYSTEM THAT CHARGES THE REQUIRED AMOUNT TO THE DEFENDANT'S CREDIT CARD ACCOUNT.

 

OF PARTICULAR INTEREST TO THE BAR, OUR AWARD-WINNING COURTS WEB PAGE IS CONSTANTLY BEING IMPROVED.  ACCESS TO THE WEB PAGE IS AVAILABLE AT NO EXTRA CHARGE THROUGH THE INTERNET.  THROUGH THE WEB PAGE THE USER CAN ACCESS SELECTED COURT DATA, CRIMINAL CALENDARS AND LOCAL RULES, AND MOST AOC FORMS.

 

WE NOW LOOK TO THE FUTURE.  CHIEF JUSTICE MITCHELL REPORTED LAST YEAR THAT LEGISLATION WAS PENDING TO ALLOW US TO BRING IN OUTSIDE EXPERTS TO ASSESS OUR INFORMATION RESOURCES AND DEVELOP A STRATEGIC PLAN TO SERVE THE COURTS NOW AND IN THE FUTURE.  THAT HAS BEEN DONE.  THE GARTNER GROUP, A NATIONALLY PROMINENT CONSULTING FIRM, HAS DEVELOPED A FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY PLAN FOR US.  THIS PLAN CALLS FOR:


SIGNIFICANTLY UPGRADING THE TELEPHONE NETWORK THAT LINKS OUR 100 COUNTY COURTHOUSES TO EACH OTHER AND TO OUR MAINFRAME IN RALEIGH

 

GREATLY IMPROVING OUR SOFTWARE AND PROGRAMS

 

REPLACING EQUIPMENT

 

CONTINUING TO UPDATE AND ENHANCE THE SYSTEMS THAT WILL FUNCTION AS PART OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE INFORMATION NETWORK, AND

 

OBTAINING THE STAFF NECESSARY TO INSTALL, TRAIN AND SUPPORT ALL OUR SYSTEMS AND TECHNOLOGY.

 

OUR OVERRIDING BUDGET PRIORITY FOR THE UPCOMING FISCAL YEAR AND THE NEXT BIENNIUM WILL BE TO OBTAIN THE FUNDING NECESSARY TO ACHIEVE THE GOALS OF THIS STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY PLAN.  AGAIN I ENLIST YOUR SUPPORT.  YOU, YOUR CLIENTS AND THE PUBLIC AT LARGE CAN ONLY BENEFIT, AND THE PURSUIT OF JUSTICE IN THE COURTS CAN ONLY IMPROVE, AS WE ACQUIRE THE TECHNOLOGY WE NEED TO CARRY OUT THE COURTS' MISSION IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

 

OBTAINING THIS FUNDING WILL NOT BE EASY.  WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN ASKED TO RETURN A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF THIS YEARS MONEY IN ORDER TO PROVIDE FUNDS FOR ASSISTANCE TO FLOOD VICTIMS.  WE DO THIS WILLINGLY, IN THE HOPE THAT OUR CONTRIBUTION MAY HELP BRING EARLY RELIEF TO SUFFERING COMMUNITIES AND PEOPLE.  YET THE FLOOD HAS INCREASED THE COURTS NEEDS AS WELL.  TO MEET THOSE NEEDS, AND TO OBTAIN THE FUNDING REQUIRED TO ACCOMPLISH OUR STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY PLAN, WILL TAKE A CONCERTED EFFORT BY ALL OF US.  I THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR SUPPORT.

 


     COURT MANAGEMENT

 

THE OTHER MAJOR INITIATIVES I WISH TO REPORT TO YOU ARE THOSE THAT IMPROVE COURT MANAGEMENT.  HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT:

 

CRIMINAL CASE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS, FIRST PILOTED IN CUMBERLAND, BLADEN, COLUMBUS AND BRUNSWICK COUNTIES, ARE NOW IN PLACE IN TEN PROSECUTORIAL DISTRICTS.  LEGISLATION ENACTED IN 1999 REQUIRES THAT SIMILAR PLANS BE IN PLACE IN ALL DISTRICTS BY THE FIRST OF THE YEAR.

 

CIVIL CASE CALENDARING PROGRAMS ARE IN PLACE IN THREE DISTRICT COURT DISTRICTS.

 

FAMILY COURT HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED IN THREE DISTRICT COURT DISTRICTS, AND WILL EXPAND TO THREE MORE IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

 

SEVERAL ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROGRAMS CONTINUE TO EXPAND INTO NEW DISTRICTS, INCLUDING COURT ORDERED ARBITRATION, CUSTODY MEDIATION, AND A NEW PROGRAM TO MEDIATE FAMILY FINANCIAL DISPUTES.  THERE IS EVEN A NEW PROVISION FOR MEDIATING Y2K DISPUTES, FOR WHICH WE ARE DEVELOPING FORMS AND PROCEDURE

 


FINALLY, WE ARE TAKING SEVERAL INITIATIVES TO MEET THE NEEDS OF NON-ENGLISH SPEAKERS IN THE COURTS.  IN THIS RESPECT, I WANT TO SPECIALLY THANK YOU FOR YOUR $70,000 IOLTA GRANT TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS FOR FOREIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS.  WE HAVE RECENTLY USED A PORTION OF THIS GRANT TO HIRE AN INTERPRETER TO TRANSLATE A NUMBER OF COURT FORMS INTO SPANISH.  THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

 

   THE SUPREME COURT CLERK’S OFFICE

OVER THE LAST TEN MONTHS, THE SUPREME COURT CLERK’S OFFICE HAS BEGUN IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FIRST STATEWIDE ELECTRONIC FILING PROJECT IN THE NATION.  THIS PROJECT BEGAN AS A SIMPLE REPLACEMENT OF A COPIER IN OUR PRINTING DEPARTMENT, BUT WITH TECHNOLOGY AT THE LEVEL IT IS NOW, AND FOR A SIMILAR AMOUNT OF MONEY, WE FOUND WE COULD PROVIDE MORE OPTIONS AND QUICKER  SERVICES TO THE ATTORNEYS ACROSS THE STATE.  WE ALSO FOUND THAT BY TRYING TO MEET THE TECHNOLOGY LEVEL OF MOST OF YOUR OFFICES, WE COULD IMPROVE THE EFFICIENCY OF OUR OFFICES, AND THAT WE COULD PROVIDE EASIER ACCESS TO BOTH ATTORNEYS AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC TO THE DOCUMENTS FILED BEFORE THE COURT.

I WANT TO ASK YOU TO TAKE OUT A PENCIL OR PEN AND WRITE DOWN THREE THINGS:    

 

1.  FIRST, A WEB ADDRESS.  WWW.NCAPPELLATECOURTS.ORG.  THE NC APPELLATE COURTS PORTION OF THIS WEB ADDRESS IS ALL ONE WORD WITHOUT SPACES.  THIS IS THE WEB ADDRESS THROUGH WHICH YOU CAN SUBMIT A DOCUMENT TO THE SUPREME COURT ELECTRONICALLY.

 

2.  SECOND, A NUMBER.  919-733-3723.  THIS IS THE NUMBER OF THE CLERK’S OFFICE.

 


3.  THIRD, A NAME.  JOAN DAVIS.  JOAN IS A MEMBER OF THE COMPUTER SECTION OF THE CLERK’S OFFICE STAFF AND SHE HAS BEEN DESIGNATED IN THE CLERK’S OFFICE AS “THE SOURCE” FOR ASSISTANCE TO YOUR QUESTIONS ON FILING A DOCUMENT ELECTRONICALLY.  ANYONE IN THE CLERK’S OFFICE WILL BE WILLING TO HELP YOU, BUT JOAN IS CHARGED WITH BEING THE PRIMARY “HELP DESK” ASSISTANT.

 

THESE THREE BITS OF INFORMATION ARE YOUR TICKET TO BEING ABLE TO FIND BRIEFS, RECORDS AND PETITIONS WHICH HAVE BEEN FILED AT THE SUPREME COURT ON THE WEB.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO CALL UP THE CLERK’S OFFICE AND REQUEST A COPY.  IF THEY HAVE BEEN FILED ELECTRONICALLY, YOU CAN DO WORD SEARCHES ON THESE DOCUMENTS TODAY.

 

THERE ARE MANY DOORS THAT WILL OPEN FOR THE COURT IN TERMS OF EFFICIENCY AND FOR ATTORNEYS IN TERMS OF BOTH MONEY AND TIME WITH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS ELECTRONIC FILING SYSTEM.  WE HAVE ALREADY HAD INTEREST IN VIEWING THIS SYSTEM BY COURTS IN THREE OTHER STATES.  TO GIVE A COMPLETE OVERVIEW OF THE SYSTEM IS NOT POSSIBLE IN THE CONFINES OF TIME WE HAVE TODAY, BUT I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO CALL UP CHRISTIE CAMERON OF THE CLERK’S OFFICE AND INVITE A JUSTICE OR CHRISTIE TO COME TO YOUR NEXT BAR ASSOCIATION OR BAR MEETING AND SHARE MORE OF THE DETAILS OF THIS SYSTEM WITH YOU.  WE ARE IN THE LAST STAGES OF TESTING, AND YOU WILL HAVE TO FILE A PAPER COPY AS WELL AS THE ELECTRONIC COPY FOR THE NEXT MONTH, BUT WE ARE HOPEFUL THAT BY MID-NOVEMBER, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO FILE ALL YOUR DOCUMENTS TO THE SUPREME COURT ELECTRONICALLY WITHOUT HAVING TO USE THE MAIL OR FEDERAL EXPRESS.

 

           THE REPORTER’S OFFICE

 

          THE REPORTER’S OFFICE TRADITIONALLY WRITES THE HEADNOTES AND PUBLISHES THE OPINIONS FOR BOTH THE SUPREME COURT AND THE COURT OF APPEALS IN THE  ADVANCE SHEETS AND BOUND VOLUMES. THEY ARE NOW RESPONSIBLE FOR THE  OPINIONS SECTION OF THE WEB PAGE, WHERE YOU MAY FIND THE SLIP OPINIONS  ON THE DAY THEY ARE FILED, THE HEADNOTES AND CORRECTIONS AS THEY BECOME  AVAILABLE, AND A SUBJECT INDEX. AMONG OTHER IMPROVEMENTS IN THE NEW  YEAR, THEY HOPE TO ADD A SEARCH ENGINE TO THE OPINIONS. THIS OFFICE HAS 


BEEN THE SAME SIZE -- TWO ATTORNEYS -- SINCE 1968.  LAST SUMMER, THE  LEGISLATURE AUTHORIZED A THIRD POSITION, WHICH SHOULD REDUCE THE TIME  NEEDED TO WRITE THE HEADNOTES AND PUBLISH THE ADVANCE SHEETS. YOU CAN FIND THE REPORTS AT:  WWW.AOC.STATE.NC.US

 

           THE SUPREME COURT LIBRARY

 

THE SUPREME COURT LIBRARY IS A FIRST-RATE LAW LIBRARY WHICH PROVIDES SERVICE NOT ONLY TO THE COURTS, BUT ALSO TO OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, MEMBERS OF THE BAR, AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC. 

 

WHILE THE LIBRARY HAS A STRONG COLLECTION OF LEGAL MATERIALS FROM ALL JURISDICTIONS, WE TAKE PARTICULAR PRIDE IN ITS HOLDINGS OF CURRENT AND HISTORICAL NORTH CAROLINA MATERIALS.  AS PART OF THE NORTH CAROLINA COURTS WEB SITE, THE LIBRARY MAINTAINS A WEB PAGE WHICH BOASTS A SEARCHABLE CATALOG OF MUCH OF ITS COLLECTION AND A CAREFULLY SELECTED LIST OF LAW-ORIENTED SITES ON THE INTERNET. THE LIBRARY'S STAFF OF SEVEN IS ALWAYS PLEASED TO ASSIST THE ATTORNEYS OF THE STATE.  INFORMATION ON HOW TO CONTACT THE STAFF MAY BE FOUND ON THE WEB SITE:  HTTP://WWW.AOC.STATE.NC.US.

 

THE CHIEF JUSTICE’S COMMITTEE ON PROFESSIONALISM

 

ON THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE STATE BAR, THE SUPREME COURT, ON THE 22ND OF SEPTEMBER 1998, CREATED THE CHIEF JUSTICE’S COMMISSION ON PROFESSIONALISM.  CHIEF JUSTICE MITCHELL, UNTIL HIS RETIREMENT, SERVED AS CHAIR OF THE COMMISSION WHOSE MEMBERSHIP INCLUDES: 

 

JUDGES:  CHIEF JUDGE SIDNEY S. EAGLES, JR., OF THE COURT OF APPEALS, SENIOR RESIDENT SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE DOUGLAS W. ALBRIGHT, AND DISTRICT COURT JUDGE J. CARLTON COLE;

 


LAW SCHOOL DEANS:  ROBERT K. WALSH AND JUDITH WEGNER;

 

PRACTICING LAWYERS:  ALFRED P. CARLTON, JR., WILLIAM O. KING, PHILLIP G. KIRK, ERIC C. MICHAUX, E. FITZGERALD PARNELL, ELIZABETH L. QUICK, AND HOWARD F. TWIGGS;

 

PUBLIC MEMBERS:  DR. WILLIAM C. FRIDAY, DR. LLOYD V. HACKLEY, JR., AND PHILLIP J. KIRK, JR.

 

AS YOU KNOW, THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDED AND THE SUPREME COURT HAS NOW ADOPTED A RULE PERMITTING LAWYERS TO DESIGNATE A THREE-WEEK VACATION PERIOD WHICH WILL BE HONORED AND RESPECTED BY THE COURTS.  THIS NEW RULE IS EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2000. 

 

I BECAME CHAIR IN SEPTEMBER OF THIS YEAR. I AM PLEASED TO REPORT THAT A SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE COMMISSION HAS BEEN HARD AT WORK, WITH CHIEF JUSTICE MITCHELL, AND CONTINUING WITH ME, TO INTERVIEW CANDIDATES FOR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE COMMISSION.  WE ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT AN OFFER HAS BEEN MADE TO MELVIN WRIGHT, JR., A PAST PRESIDENT OF THE FORSYTH COUNTY BAR, AND HE HAS ACCEPTED THE POSITION AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TO BEGIN WORK THIS YEAR.

 

IN CLOSING, LET ME TAKE A MOMENT TO REEMPHASIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE COMMON CAUSE THAT UNITES US.  AS MEMBERS OF THE BAR, AS JUDICIAL OFFICIALS, AND AS COURT ADMINISTRATORS, WE SHARE A BASIC COMMITMENT TO THE VERY FUNDAMENTAL CAUSE OF JUSTICE.  YOUR EFFORTS AND OURS MUST ALWAYS BE DIRECTED TO IMPROVING, IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY, THE QUALITY OF JUSTICE RECEIVED BY ALL PEOPLE IN OUR COURTS.  AS WE CLOSE THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND THE SECOND MILLENNIUM, LET US ALL RESOLVE TO WORK TOGETHER SO THAT OUR PROGRESS WILL CONTINUE INTO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY AND THE THIRD MILLENNIUM.