Court of Appeals
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Supreme Court of North Carolina was one of the busiest in the country. Faced with an increasing number of cases dealing with its customary judicial business and a number of post-conviction appeals based on constitutional issues resulting from recent United States Supreme Court decisions, the court was becoming overburdened. This situation led the 1965 General Assembly to submit a proposed amendment to Article IV of the North Carolina Constitution. The new amendment authorized the creation of an intermediate court of appeals to relieve pressure on the N.C. Supreme Court by sharing the appellate caseload. Voters overwhelmingly approved this recommendation in the November, 1965, election. The 1967 General Assembly enacted the necessary legislation establishing the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals became operational on October 1, 1967. The constitutional changes and legislation of the 1960s created the state’s current multi-level court system. The judicial branch now contains two trial divisions, the District Court Division and, above it, the Superior Court Division. The Appellate Division consists of two levels — the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
The 1965 constitutional amendment and legislation that established the Court of Appeals provided for a total of nine judges to be elected for eight-year terms. The General Assembly created three additional seats on the court in 1977, bringing the total number of judges to twelve. The bulk of the Court of Appeals’ caseload consists of cases appealed from the trial courts. The court also hears direct appeals of certain administrative agency decisions. The Court of Appeals sits in panels of three judges. This arrangement allows the court to hear arguments in separate cases at the same time. The chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court designates one of the judges of the Court of Appeals as chief judge. The chief judge assigns appellate judges to the four panels so that each will sit, as nearly as possible, an equal number of times with every other judge. The Court of Appeals sits primarily in Raleigh, although it may sit in other locations throughout the state as authorized by the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals appoints a clerk to serve at its pleasure. Opinions of the Court of Appeals are prepared by the Appellate Division reporter.
The Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court. The court has 15 judges who serve eight-year terms and hear cases in panels of three. The court is led by a Chief Judge who is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals decides only questions of law in cases appealed from superior and district courts and from some administrative agencies of the executive branch. Appeals range from infractions to non-capital murder cases.
If there has been a dissent in an opinion of the Court of Appeals, the parties to the case have the right to have the Supreme Court review the decision. If there is no dissent, then the Supreme Court may still review the case upon a party’s petition.