The North Carolina Judicial Branch will receive hundreds of millions of dollars critical to the administration of justice if a state budget compromise bill released today becomes law.
"This bipartisan budget compromise addresses most of the pressing needs of the Judicial Branch. The budget enables us to transform our state courts’ old IT infrastructure, mitigating the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also prevents the loss of hundreds of crucial crime victim-support positions," said Chief Justice Paul Newby, the leader of North Carolina’s Judicial Branch.
"This budget provides the funding needed to deliver improvements for countless North Carolinians who depend on our courts. It will help us fulfill our constitutional mandate of open courts that administer justice without favor, denial, or delay. It is certainly my privilege to work with the leadership of both the legislative and executive branches to try to determine a budget that supports the vital needs of the Judicial Branch."
The budget compromise invests tens of millions in the Judicial Branch’s transformation to eCourts – a new integrated case management system that will allow continuity of court operations at all times, improve efficiencies, and enable North Carolinians from all corners of our state to have 24/7 access to the courts. North Carolina’s court filings have always been paper-based and backed up on archaic, 1980s-style mainframe computers. This outdated way of case management has posed many obstacles, especially during recent challenges like the pandemic and hurricanes, where North Carolinians could not physically get to court to conduct their business.
"eCourts will help our judicial officials do their jobs more efficiently. It will help North Carolina families, small business owners, law enforcement officers, victims of domestic violence, and those who live in more remote areas of the state conduct court business remotely, saving time and money. eCourts will most certainly help give us the much-needed tools to address the court case backlog created by the pandemic," Newby said.
In addition, the budget conference report:
- Provides recurring funds for Victim Services Coordinators with the Conference of DAs, deputy clerks, and Guardian ad Litem employees to replace expired federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant funds.
- Provides a 5 percent raise and bonuses for Judicial Branch employees, consistent with other state employees.
- Provides nearly $30 million to support efforts to combat human trafficking and provide recovery services to human trafficking victims.
- Directs funds to create innovative court pilot programs, such as treatment courts, in seven counties across the state.
- Provides vital new positions including additional assistant district attorneys, deputy clerks, Guardian ad Litem child advocates, magistrates, and judges, as well as additional business court, clerk, and commission staff positions.
- Provides roughly $140 million for local courthouse construction, renovation, and repair.