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Chief Justice: Technology Upgrades Needed to Make Courts Open (NC)

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Chief Justice: Technology Upgrades Needed to Make Courts Open

"North Carolina’s judicial system handles about three million cases annually. The cases involve criminal, civil and business matters and are heard across a variety of court settings.

Overseeing this system is the Cheri Beasley Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Beasley, who was appointed chief justice in early March, wants to advance the public’s access to the state’s courts by implementing a statewide eCourts program, a cloud-based system which provides statewide electronic filing, integrated case management and calendaring and allows people to handle certain activities without traveling to a courthouse.

Beasley discussed the eCourts system when she traveled to Greenville on Monday, to a talk with high school and Pitt Community College students ahead of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s special session on May 14 at the Pitt County Courthouse. The event is part of a two-year observance of the court’s bicentennial.

Beasley was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2012. She was elected associate judge on the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2008. She was the first African-American woman to win a statewide election without having been first appointed to the position.

Along with streamlining work internally, Beasley said eCourts could help smaller counties provide services such as seeking domestic violence protection orders when magistrates are off duty. The state received a federal grant three years ago to launch an eCourts domestic violence program in 13 counties.

Implementing a statewide system would require $40 million, Beasley said.
“We are asking the legislature to fund eCourt, which would allow greater access to justice across the state,” Beasley said.

Implementing an eCourt system here would be easier than in some states because the North Carolina has a unified court system. However, the technology is these courts are widely different.

“We don’t have a way for the systems to communicate,” Beasley said. “We don’t have ways for people to use the system in a way which will allow us to be more efficient and customer-service ready.”

The state Administrative Office of the Courts, which falls under the chief justice’s purview, is seeking $40 million from the General Assembly in the 2019-21 biennium budget. Ideally, there would be a $20 million appropriation in the approaching 2019-20 state budget and the other half would be funded in fiscal year 2020-21..."

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