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The following article was authored by Taylor Smith Hastings, a Chapel Hill NC attorney.  More information about Taylor and his firm can be found on his website: http://www.hastingsnclaw.com

 

Court funding cuts could especially threaten Orange County’s judicial efficiency to the detriment of its promising potential for growth and development.

 

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, the General Assembly made budget cuts again that sparked widespread controversy. This cut in particular exposed the crossroads at which North Carolina’s judicial relevance stands, especially for counties that are experiencing disproportionate growth like Orange County.

 

Catherine Arrowood, President of the North Carolina Bar Association, published an article recently that describes the General Assembly’s decision to cut court funding from 3% of the budget to 2.2%. She explains how the cuts will delay North Carolina’s quest to meet the technological demands of contemporary courts that individuals and businesses rely on in other states and jurisdictions. Moreover, she commented on how judicial efficiency is especially lacking in counties whose growth and sophistication call for the e-filing capabilities of peer court systems.

 

She’s right, and Orange County is one of those counties. Home principally to Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, the population makeup is highly educated, increasing at rapid rates, and relatively affluent. Even Google sees the region’s abundant potential, and recently announced it plans to bring Fiber service to Chapel Hill. The ability to attract businesses and spur economic development can sometimes depend on how effective the jurisdiction can enforce contractual obligations or other rights, and despite how beneficial specialty courts have become in that aim, the surrounding state courts are falling dangerously behind other states in e-filing ability.

 

As Arrowood explains, “more people mean more divorces, child custody fights, debt collection actions, probates, criminal proceedings, and appeals.” Our judicial system needs to meet the demands of the public to remain an effective and relevant forum in which it honors the rights and obligations people rely on to advance their lives and explore their opportunities. If court funding cannot grow in line with these needs, it could especially detriment counties like Orange, home to a growing base of technologically dependent businesses and individuals whose respect for the law might waver with the growing irrelevance of court technology.