The North Carolina House of Representatives approved an updated framework for the state's judicial districts on Thursday, completing the first comprehensive reform to court system maps since 1955.
Speaker Tim Moore said previous piecemeal edits unfairly skewed judicial districts in the state, and House Bill 717 Judicial Redistricting & Investment Act was necessary to balance representation in the courts for North Carolina citizens.
"It's past time to correct the unbalanced representations produced by piecemeal edits to our court system maps with a consistent framework for North Carolina’s judicial divisions," said House Speaker Tim Moore.
"I appreciate the exceptional service of Rep. Justin Burr in completing a thorough legislative process that included extensive public comment from judicial officials and stakeholders, the approval of three legislative committees, and the consideration of more than a dozen amendments from legislators. “
Updated court maps passed the House Judiciary 1 Committee in June, the House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting in September, the House Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House in October, and the full House of Representatives today.
"North Carolina’s population has grown rapidly over the past two generations, and it is a constitutional duty for the General Assembly to ensure the justice system serves all our citizens equally,” Moore continued.
“Our changes incorporate public input, state resources, geography, population, and caseload into an overdue update of North Carolina's judicial maps."
“North Carolina voters deserve an equal voice and full confidence in their justice system, and our comprehensive legislative process has balanced their representation to reaffirm those rights.”
Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) said H.B. 717 received more deliberation and public input than most legislation he could recall in his five terms of service in the North Carolina House of Representatives:
“This proposal invests additional resources into our justice system for more prosecutors, district court and superior court judges based on workload data, extensive meetings and committee hearings over the last four months,” Burr said.
“We are also adding more flexibility for superior court judges and our proposed judicial divisions will meet, or in most cases exceed, the number of judges needed to serve each of the divisions based on workload formulas.”
“This bill fulfills our constitutional obligation to provide the court system with the resources and consistent representation necessary to effectively administer justice for all North Carolinians.”
The North Carolina Constitution specifically identifies the legislature’s role in judicial redistricting:
Article IV, Sec. 9 – “The General Assembly shall, from time to time, divide the State into a
convenient number of Superior Court judicial districts and shall provide for the election of one or more Superior Court Judges for each district…”
Article IV, Sec. 10 – “The General Assembly shall, from time to time, divide the State into a
convenient number of local court districts and shall prescribe where the District Courts shall sit, but a District Court must sit in at least one place in each county…”
Article IV, Sec. 11 – “…the General Assembly may divide the State into a number of judicial
Article IV, Sec. 18 – “The General Assembly shall, from time to time, divide the State into a
convenient number of prosecutorial districts, for each of which a District Attorney shall be
North Carolina House Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) passed an initial judicial redistricting proposal in the House Judiciary 1 Committee on June 23, 2017. He subsequently co-chaired three hearings of the House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting, receiving public comment – anyone could sign up and speak – and considered over a dozen amendments to the proposal.
Burr also traveled to meet extensively with judges and court officials in more than a dozen counties prior gaining approval of a judicial redistricting proposal from the House Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House, and the full House of Representatives.
Example of Unbalanced Representation
In Mecklenburg County, there are 3 Superior Court districts. District 26B has 301,999 voters with three judges (100,666 voters per judge), District 26A has 151,257 voters with two judges (75,628 voters per judge), and District 26C 466,372 with two judges (233,186 voters per judge).
Currently, the voters of District 26C have a third of the voice in their judicial system as do the voters of District 26A.