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Conference of Superior Court Judges Meets in Chapel Hill
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The North Carolina Conference of Superior Court Judges met for three days, beginning Monday, October 21, 2013, at the University of North Carolina School of Government in Chapel Hill. At the conclusion of the meeting, Superior Court Judge J. C. Cole of Perquimans County became president of the Conference, succeeding Gaston County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell.

Approximately 143 regular judges, special judges, emergency judges, retired judges, and appellate court judges and justices attended the meeting. Among the appellate judges in attendance was the Honorable Sarah Parker, chief justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and United States District Court Judge Catherine Eagles, a former superior court judge.

In addition to incoming President Judge J.C. Cole, elected from North Carolina Judicial District 1, the Conference elected W. Osmond Smith, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge elected from District 9A, representing Caswell and Person counties, as president-elect. The following judges were also elected to the board of directors: Judge Jay Hockenbury, elected from District 5, New Hanover and Pender counties; Judge Tom Lock, elected from District 11B, Johnston County; Judge Moses Massey, elected from District 17B, Surry and Stokes counties; Judge Stuart Albright, elected from District 18, Guilford County; Judge Alan Thornburg, elected from District 28, Buncombe County; and Judge Douglas Albright, a retired emergency judge from Guilford County and father of Judge Stuart Albright. Judge Marvin Pope of Buncombe County continues as treasurer and Judge Patrice Hinnant of Guilford County continues as secretary of the Conference.

The meeting coincided with a dinner honoring Jim Drennan, a professor of public law and government who has taught and advised judges on court administration since 1974. Superior Court Judge Bob Hobgood and University of North Carolina President Tom Ross, a former superior court judge, were among those who expressed the gratitude of the bench and bar for Professor Drennan's contributions to North Carolina's justice system over the past four decades.

The majority of the meeting was devoted to judicial education, including training sessions for judges to use new online research tools, administer CPR and other first aid, and to respond to firearm emergencies in the courtroom, as well as review of developments in statutory and case law by School of Government faculty and a presentation regarding the widespread crime of human trafficking and its effect on the criminal justice system.

Professor Jessica Smith reviewed several criminal statutes enacted by the General Assembly during the 2013 session, including

enhancing punishment for felony child abuses
providing immunity from prosecution for individuals seeking medical assistance in drug overdose incidents
making it a felony to fail to report the disappearance of a child or to fail to report a death
repealing the Racial Justice Act
adding convictions for human trafficking to offenses requiring sex offender registration
proposing, for approval by voters in 2014, an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution to allow criminal defendants in non-capital cases to waive the right to a jury trial with the court's consent

Professors Jamie Markham and Jeff Welty reviewed additional developments in criminal law.

Professor Ann Anderson reviewed developments in civil cases and legislation. Professor John Rubin reviewed recent amendments to statutes governing procedures for evaluation of criminal defendants whose capacity to proceed to trial is in question, and Judge Lucy Inman reviewed recent appellate decisions regarding the trial court's responsibility to consider evidence of a criminal defendant's mental capacity to proceed to trial, as well as related mental capacity issues. Judges Shannon Joseph and Robert Ervin reviewed amended Rule 702(a) of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence, regarding the criteria for the admission of expert testimony in criminal and civil trials.

The director of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, John Smith, addressed the conference on Tuesday, October 22. He summarized the effect on the Judicial Branch of the most recent budget enacted by the General Assembly.

Judges also learned from presentations by professionals from outside the conference. Professor Terry Coonan of Florida State University explained the widespread crime of human trafficking and the consequences for trafficking victims, who often are forced into slave labor and prostitution. Members of the South Orange County Rescue Squad trained judges in first aid techniques, including the use of automated external defibrillators, to allow prompt response to medical emergencies in court. United States Marshals provided training emphasizing awareness, preparation, and rehearsal for judges in the event of an active shooter in a courthouse.

Nancy Norelli, a former district court judge and chairperson of the North Carolina Bar Association's Judicial Performance Evaluation Committee, summarized surveys on the performance of judges and judicial candidates to be conducted in the coming months. Norelli noted that public interest in the evaluations is demonstrated by the volume of online inquiries made for evaluation data.

Nan Hannah, chairperson of the North Carolina Bar Association's Transitioning Lawyers Commission, reported on progress by that commission in helping lawyers retire from practice in a responsible and rewarding manner that protects both lawyer and clients. Carmen Bannon, North Carolina State Bar deputy counsel and judicial liaison, spoke about her role as a primary point of contact for judges who are concerned about the conduct of lawyers, including discussion regarding the consequences of addressing problems in court or through the State Bar's grievance process.

About the Conference of Superior Court Judges
The purpose of the Conference of Superior Court Judges is to promote professionalism, proficiency, and collegiality among North Carolina judges. Judge J.C. Cole of Perquimans County is president of the conference, and is Judge W. Osmond Smith of Caswell County is president-elect.

For more information, please contact Lucy N. Inman, special superior court judge, at or at (919) 792-4966.
Publish Date: 11/04/2013
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