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Tyrrell commissioners say fewer district judges will slow court process

One of three plans being considered by a committee in the North Carolina General Assembly would reduce from four to three the number of district court judges in the Second Judicial District, which comprises Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

The Tyrrell County Board of Commissioners opposes the reduction because “the number of felonies and traffic matters has steadily increased and doubled over the past 17 years” that four judges have been assigned to the district, states a resolution adopted unanimously May 1 on motion by Vice Chairman Carl Willis.

The opioid crisis, the resolution points out, has produced “a shocking increase in the number of criminal cases being dealt with” in the district, and “the indirect and tragic impacts of the opioid crisis upon the children and families within the affected communities has even further contributed to an equally shocking increase in the number of abuse, neglect and dependency cases requiring additional judicial time to be spent both in and out of the courtroom by judges within the Second Judicial District.”

And a new law that will go into effect in late 2019, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, will add court sessions to accommodate the increased number of juvenile cases.

The commissioners concluded that “it is not in the best interest of our citizens or the Second Judicial District to lose any of the four judge positions that have been assigned to the district for almost two decades, due to the immediate and significant detrimental impact such loss would have upon our citizens’ access to justice in a prompt and effective manner,” and they expressed their “opposition to any reduction in the number of judges in the Second Judicial District.”

The joint legislative committee has not met since April 27, and no definite recommendation has been published.