From the Hendersonville Times-News
In a historic moment, the North Carolina Supreme Court heard oral arguments for two cases Tuesday at the Historic Courthouse. This is the first session held in Henderson County and the first time the court has heard arguments west of Morganton.
Chief Justice Mark Martin and the six other justices heard arguments on one civil and one criminal case.
Tuesday’s session was only the sixth time the state’s Supreme Court has heard oral arguments outside of Raleigh since 1861, Martin said.
“It is a pleasure to host this session in Henderson County,” the chief justice said.
The first case of the day was Walker v. Driven Holdings LLC, a business court case out of Mecklenburg County.
The second was a criminal case from Transylvania County, State v. Darrell Lee Melton. In February 2015, Melton met a hit man in the parking lot of a Walmart and paid him $10,000 to kill his ex-wife, the prosecution contends. The hitman was actually an undercover SBI agent.
Shortly after Melton paid for the hit, he was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder and solicitation of first-degree murder. He was eventually convicted of both charges. Tuesday’s arguments before the Supreme Court focused on the attempted first-degree murder conviction.
Justices Sam Ervin IV, Barbara Jackson, Paul M. Newby, Robin E. Hudson, Cheri Beasley and Michael Morgan heard the case, aong with Martin. Cases are decided by a majority vote. There is no set time for when decisions are issued.
Tickets were required to attend both sessions Tuesday, and all were claimed in advance of the event.
Each session lasted around an hour. Audience members included several local elected leaders and education officials. A few school groups also attended the oral arguments.
State law typically requires the Supreme Court to only meet in three cities – Raleigh, Edenton and Morganton. The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation last year to allow the state’s Supreme Court to meet anywhere this year through 2020.
Oral arguments were also heard in Morganton on Monday and will take place in Asheville on Wednesday.
The N.C. Supreme Court was established in 1819, and initially was made up of three justices who served “for periods of good behavior” that essentially became life terms. The court originally only met in Raleigh, but it was a burdensome location for many of the state’s residents as they began to move toward the west.
The N.C. General Assembly enacted legislation requiring the court to hold monthly sessions in Morganton starting in 1847.
During its time in Morganton, the court held arguments in almost 500 cases. More than two-thirds of those cases were argued by either one of two Asheville brothers, John and Nicholas Woodfin.
Sessions continued until 1861, when tensions preceding the Civil War prevented the court from leaving its permanent home in the state capital.
The state’s Supreme Court has remained in Raleigh since that time, but has recently held special sessions of court in Burke and Chowan counties.