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Friday, January 1, 2021

Dear Judicial Branch Family,

I hope you have had a much deserved break over the holidays and an opportunity to rest and recharge for the year ahead. Our courts have certainly confronted difficult challenges in the last year as we navigated the COVID-19 pandemic together. To proceed as safely as possible in our courts, it has been necessary to curtail or otherwise alter many of our court functions. I know these changes have required even more of you than your usual steadfast dedication. Together, we have faced these challenges, hearing cases and managing court business as safely as possible for everyone in our court facilities.

It has been a true honor to serve as your Chief Justice. During my tenure, I have met with each group of court leaders who keep our system running, from judges to magistrates to court reporters and bar associations, and everything in between. I have sought and appreciated your input in the functioning of our court system, particularly in such unprecedented times. As such, I have come to know your spouses, children, grandchildren, and even the family pets. We’ve shared stories about our college-aged children, family weddings, and difficult times. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of you, and I will always cherish the friendships we have built.

I’m so proud of the work we have done together. Under the leadership of Director McKinley Wooten, we have begun upgrading our technology and phasing out old legacy MS-DOS systems to advance our court communities by utilizing cutting edge technology. Children in nearly half our state are now served by School Justice Partnerships. We’ve established the Faith and Justice Alliance, bringing together lawyers and faith communities to address unmet legal needs of those living in poverty. Acknowledging that most of the people who appear in our courts represent themselves, we created more efficient and user friendly tools to help them better navigate our courts. We have relieved tens of thousands of people of long-standing court debt and expunged juvenile records for thousands more, allowing them to get back on their feet with a second chance. We’ve worked hard for increased funding for our courts and, although our courts still lack necessary resources, each of you has risen to the occasion to meet our obligations to the public: to do justice. I’m proud of our courts and proud to know you.

As we approach the New Year, I offer my deepest gratitude to Director Wooten, the AOC staff, all court leaders and staff, members of commissions and committees, the COVID-19 Task Force, and my colleagues on the Supreme Court. I offer my very best wishes to each of you as you continue to serve the people of North Carolina.

In service,

Filed Under: General News

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