A few weeks ago I wrote about provisions of the 2023 Appropriations Act that affect the judiciary. Among those changes was the creation of ten new special superior court judgeships to be filled by legislative appointment. The General Assembly made seven of those appointments last week. See S.L. 2023-148 (S 761). The list of special superior court judges who are appointed to eight-year terms effective January 1, 2024, follows.
Several provisions of the 2023 Appropriations Act (H 259) ratified by the General Assembly last week (which is expected to become law on October 3 without the Governor’s signature) affect the judiciary. The biggest news item for judges may be the substantial salary increases included in the two-year budget. At the end of the biennium, salaries for district court judges will have increased by 24 percent (to $162,620) and salaries for superior court judge by 13 percent to ($169,125). The salary for the Chief Justice will increase by 20 percent over this period (from $168,980 to $203,073), and salaries for associate justices and court of appeals judges will have the same percentage increase. Many argue that those kinds of adjustments are long overdue. A 2020 ranking of judicial salaries by the National Center for State Courts placed North Carolina judicial salaries in the bottom half of all states and the District of Columbia. Supreme court associate justice salaries were the lowest of those measured, coming in at number 44. But this post is not about salaries; instead it will focus on other court system changes enacted by H 259.
I’ll start with some different numbers.
With the exception of the buzz over the arrival of year Y2k, I have never in my lifetime seen people attach so much significance to the changing of the calendar year or express so much hope for what improvements that date change might usher in. The year 2021 has indeed arrived amidst the (socially distanced and masked) fanfare. And while none of us can know all of the ways in which our lives and work may change in the coming months, we do know that we will have new court system leaders helping us navigate these troubled waters.
Judges are lawyers, and lawyers are subject to discipline by the State Bar. Does that mean that judges are subject to discipline by the State Bar? Generally not, according to a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of North Carolina.