The North Carolina Supreme Court held a rare session outside of Raleigh on Monday, but there could be many more like it in the next few years.
The court has only held five sessions outside of Raleigh since the Civil War. One of those sessions was also in Morganton two years ago. The General Assembly had to approve the sessions being outside of Raleigh but now, in recognition of the court’s 200th anniversary next year, they've given the OK to hold court across the state over the next three years.
“In a sense, we are trying to reconnect the court with the people we serve,” said Chief Justice Mark Martin.
Holding sessions in Morganton was especially gratifying to Justice Jimmy Ervin. He grew up in Morganton and his family has strong ties to the Old Burke County Courthouse where the session was held Monday.
“My grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my dad all tried cases in here as lawyers,” Ervin said.
As the court held session inside, some protesters gathered outside. They were not there to protest the court, but rather the way justices will be elected in the future. The NC Legislature has changed the law to make judicial races partisan.
Matt Hirschy of Equality North Carolina says it could bring into question the fairness of those elected to sit on the bench.
“The potential implications of this are absolutely horrifying,” he said.
Hirschy's group, along with North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, are hoping to put pressure on lawmakers to change what they passed.