Legal experts will speak at local schools and organizations as part of a free program that aims to educate people about the judicial system and why it matters.
More than 300 judges, attorneys and other legal professionals have volunteered to take part in the Speakers Bureau, a new program through the N.C. Judicial Branch.
“I want folks to understand and support the rule of law,” said N.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby, who is leading the initiative with fellow Justice Sam Ervin IV.
When discussing how the program got started, Newby quoted Article I, Section 25 of the North Carolina Constitution: “A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty.”
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He said he hopes the Speakers Bureau will help remind residents about the importance of the court system.
Most people will interact with the courts at some point in their life, whether they have to pay a speeding ticket, get a divorce or defend themselves after being accused of a crime, said Buck Copeland, an attorney at Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog in Raleigh and a Speakers Bureau volunteer.
“It’s important for every citizen to understand the system,” Copeland said.
Bryan Collins, a Wake County Superior Court judge who is also volunteering with the program, hopes the Speakers Bureau will help educate future jurors.
“The longer I’m around the system I realize that it is only as good as its juries,” Collins said. “(Speakers Bureau) will show people that they can have faith and confidence in the justice system.”
The program was also launched in celebration of several legal anniversaries in 2016. It’s the 50th anniversary of the state’s unified court system, the establishment of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts and also the district court system. Next year, the state Court of Appeals and Superior Court will both turn 50.
“Most citizens, if they have an encounter with the court system, will be in a district court,” said Louis Meyer III, a Wake County District Court judge. The district court’s jurisdiction is divided into four categories: criminal, civil, juvenile and magisterial.
Meyer plans to talk about the logistics of district courts, including how to dress for a court appearance.
“I want people to know how to be prepared and what to expect,” he said.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler
Find out more
Groups or schools interested in taking part in the Speakers Bureau can fill out a form online at celebrate.nccourts.org.