Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has appointed McKinley Wooten Jr. as director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC). Wooten has served as interim director since February 28, 2019, managing the administrative services provided to the Judicial Branch’s more than 6,400 employees and 213 judicial facilities in every county of the state. He previously served as deputy director of NCAOC, deputy secretary of the Department of Administration, and inspector general at the North Carolina Department of Justice. He is the first African American to serve as director of the NCAOC.
“McKinley has done an exceptional job as interim director and has received resounding support from stakeholders at all levels of the Judicial Branch,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “His passion for helping all people coming to the court system and his experience leading in both the Judicial and Executive branches make him the perfect choice for this critical role for our state’s court system.”
The appointment was made upon the recommendation of a select committee comprised of stakeholders of the court system and the legal profession. The committee was formed by Chief Justice Beasley in January 2020. Committee members were as follows:
- Wayland Sermons, senior resident superior court judge, Judicial District 2
- Sherri Elliott, district court judge, Judicial District 25
- Marsha Johnson, clerk of superior court, Harnett County, president North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court
- William West, district attorney, Cumberland County, president North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys
- Jennifer Harjo, public defender, New Hanover County
- Phillip Coates, president, North Carolina Magistrates Association
- Kinsley Craig, president, North Carolina Association for Court Management
- Rich Leonard, dean, Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law, Campbell University
- DeWitt McCarley, partner, Parker Poe
- LeAnn Nease Brown, president, North Carolina Bar Association
- Cheryl Howell, Albert Coates Professor of Public Law and Government, UNC School of Government
- Catharine Arrowood, partner, Parker Poe
- Ralph Frasier Jr., managing partner, Frasier & Griffin PLLC
As interim director for the last year, Wooten has actively engaged with stakeholders to discuss their concerns and priorities and to keep them informed of the work being done at NCAOC to support them. He also worked with Chief Justice Beasley to strengthen the Judicial Branch’s programs and initiatives aimed at expanding court access across North Carolina. Under his leadership, NCAOC signed a contract with Tyler Technologies to bring cutting-edge technology to North Carolina’s courts and replace green screen computer systems. This new technology will be leveraged to bring electronic filing, 24/7 online access to court records, and fully integrated case management to all of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
“If the past year is any indication of the strength and innovation of the Judicial Branch, I know that we have a bright future ahead,” said Wooten. “Because of the quality and dedication of our employees, I can confidently say that the Judicial Branch will continue to provide consistent and stable justice across North Carolina.”
While serving as deputy director, Wooten oversaw statewide services for courts, including language access, recovery treatment courts, a help desk for clerks of court, child custody and permanency mediation, the Guardian ad Litem program, and the Court Improvement Program. Additionally, he held an integral leadership role in the Judicial Branch’s statewide eCourts initiative, a multi-year effort to modernize court technology and case management systems. He also serves on a number of government boards and committees, including the Chief Justice’s Equal Access to Justice Commission, Wake County Human Services Board, UNC School of Government Foundation Board, and North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union, serving as chairperson from 2011-13.
A native of Kinston, Wooten holds degrees from Morehouse College and Vanderbilt University School of Law. He is married to Laura H. Wooten, and they are the proud parents of a young adult son and daughter.