From the Kinston Free Press by Dustin George
It’s been 50 years since the North Carolina Court of Appeals heard it’s first case. The court was created in 1967 after a constitutional amendment restructured the state court system, adding the Court of Appeals as an intermediate court between the state Supreme Court and circuit courts.
The 15 judges of the appellate court are celebrating 50th year of the court by hosting court sessions in the hometowns of each of the judges. Wednesday, that celebration brought the court to the Lenoir County Courthouse, where a panel including Kinston native Donna Stroud heard arguments for two cases.
Stroud has spent 13 years serving as a judge, 11 of which have been on the Court of Appeals. She was reelected for another eight-year term in 2014.
For Stroud, who never got to practice law in Lenoir County - she left law school and moved directly to Wake County - the session was a special moment. The session was attended by students from Lenoir County Public Schools, a local home school program, students from Pitt Community College and Stroud’s mother, who watched the proceedings from the second row of the courtroom.
“It’s fun. My father, who died several years ago used to love to come to watch court. He worked at Dupont and worked shifts and so sometimes he would have strange hours and be off during the day and he used to love to watch court,” Stroud said. “It’s a shame he’s not here to see this, he would have really enjoyed it.”
As the intermediary court in the N.C. justice system, the appeals court is not one that many tend to find themselves in, but serves an important role in the state justice system, Stroud said. By visiting the hometown of each judge, the court is hoping to make people more aware of what it’s role is.
“Certainly the court most people are familiar with is the trial court level and I guess the very most would be the traffic ticket - a lot of people have had one of those - so they see that part of the process but they don’t typically see this part of the process and this part is very important,” Stroud said. “These cases have precedental value so they are going to influence future cases and they are complicated.”
The court also requires a different type of work from it’s judges. While trial court judges typically have people moving around and arguing their cases during court, appellate judges spend much of their time reading and writing opinions and doing research for cases.
“You really have to be a law geek and really like the writing and the research in our court,” she said.
To learn more about the N.C. Court of Appeals and it’s 50 year anniversary, visit celebrate.nccourts.org.