Buncombe Family Courts Recognized for Efficiency

From Chief District Court Judge Calvin Hill:

The state office that monitors the efficiency of Family Court Jurisdictions recently recognized Buncombe County for maintaining the recommended percentage of cases under one year old at 15%. This is a difficult task even in normal times, let alone the difficulties that have come with Covid. I would like to recognize our Family Court Judges Scott, Dray and Dotson-Smith, along with their staffs, for this excellent work.  This is especially noteworthy because we were the only medium to large county able to achieve this.

From NC Court Programs Specialists:
Courts statewide continue to address the backlog of both criminal and civil cases that have been created as a result of COVID-19, which can feel like an uphill battle. We commend you for your tireless efforts and recognize how difficult this time has been (and continues to be) on judges, court staff, and the court community as a whole. NCAOC continues to monitor the pending caseloads to help identify areas where assistance may be needed.

The Aging Analysis Report compiled April 8, 2021 reports the following family court statistics regarding the percentage of cases pending over 1 year. The Family Court Best Practices & Guidelines (See Section IV. 5.f.2) recommends that no more than 15% of cases should be over one year old. The first chart shows the percentage of cases that have been pending longer than 1 year for all family court districts over the last 6 fiscal years as well as the percentage for the time period of July 1, 2021-March 31, 2021.

The chart below reflects the percentage of pending cases have been pending longer than 1 year for each of the 15 family court districts for the time period of July 1, 2021-March 31, 2021. (Note: The 15 districts represented include new districts that were created as a result of redistricting and also includes new counties that were added to existing family court districts but did not receive additional staff.)

We would like to recognize and congratulate Districts 3A (Pitt), 8 (Greene, Lenoir, and Wayne), 19B (Randolph), 20A (Stanly and Montgomery), and 28 (Buncombe) for meeting the 15% time standard despite a very challenging year. It may be helpful for those districts to share the strategies that have been employed to meet this standard during a pandemic. Please feel free to reply to Lori and me and we can compile the strategies to be disseminated amongst this group. Also, please know that Lori and I are always available to assist you. We know the challenges that the pandemic has created for judges and court managers during this difficult time and would like to support you in any way we can.

Free CLE Friday: Cultivating Resilience In Your Legal Career

The Buncombe County Bar is excited to offer a free one-hour CLE discussing how to cope with and respond to challenges that occur in our profession. For example, how do you process and respond after a missed deadline or after you lose a trial? This virtual CLE will provide tools and tips on how to cope with difficult situations and build resiliency in the practice of law, and takes place on Zoom from 12:30-1:30 on Friday, May 14.


James Kilbourne is recognized locally and statewide for his leadership in the legal profession.  James was President of the Buncombe Bar in 2018-19 and President of the Western District Federal Bar in 2016-2017.  He served as the chair of the North Carolina Bar Association Convention Planning Advisory Committee for the 2018 (Wilmington) and 2019 (Asheville) Conventions.  He was recently elected as Secretary of the NCBA Appellate Practice Section, slated to become chair of that section in several years.  James has served on the Appellate Rules Committee for 5 terms.

James is a litigation attorney with twenty-two years of experience, in all aspects of civil litigation, including depositions, hearings, mediations, arbitrations, jury trials, and appeals.  He primarily handles the firm’s complex litigation, construction litigation, and appeals.  He has significant trial experience in State, Federal and Tribal court and is an excellent strategist and negotiator.  James is also a certified mediator.

Janet Amburgey is a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law.  She graduated from Appalachian School of Law in 2008 and focuses her practice exclusively on family law matters.  She represents people in divorce and separation, surrounding child custody and support, through property settlement and alimony matters.  She helps people build families through adoption, name changes, and marital agreements, protects parents and children in domestic violence matters and serves as parent counsel in DSS matters. She believes problem-solving a primary responsibility of a lawyer. Assisting people through family chaos, ensuring the protection of their rights and property, helping to blend and expand families, and facilitating the transition to newly designed futures, is the heart of Janet’s family law practice.

Pat Patton is a retired Assistant District attorney for the 40th Prosecutorial District, and served in that role for almost 30 years. Pat graduated from the University of North Carolina Law School, and earned a Bachelor’s from Duke University. He was a law clerk for the Hon. Sam J. Ervin, III in the Us Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and practiced commercial litigation before being a prosecutor.

Yolanda Fair is an Assistant Public Defender in the 28th Judicial District of North Carolina. She earned her JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law, and a BA from Tufts University. She is a board member and co-chair of Marketing for Partners Unlimited and a volunteer judge for the Buncombe County Teen Court. She is the chair of the Wellness Committee for the Buncombe County Bar.

This CLE is pending approval for one hour of mental health credit from the NC State Bar Board of CLE.

Click here to register on Zoom.

Spring Picnic at Smokey Park Supper Club

Celebrate spring at the Smokey Park Supper Club’s outdoor Boathouse with us on May 20th! We are excited to head to the river for delicious food, free beer and wine, live music and ice cream. Members may bring one adult guest, and your children are invited to join us too. Attendance is limited to 125 people. Be sure to RSVP by the Thursday, May 13 deadline.

We will be entertained by Sons of Ralph and Friends, a four-piece local bluegrass band, from 5:30 to 7:30. We’ll have some lawn games for the kids, and plenty of ice cream from The Hop. Masks will be required when not eating or drinking, and social distancing will be observed. Join us outdoors for a great spring picnic! Click here to learn more or reserve your spot.

Meditation Tune-Up This Week at 8:30am

The Wellness Committee invites you to join your colleagues for a brief guided meditation each day for the first week of May! Tune up your meditation practice, or start fresh, with the experts from A Mindful Emergence: Margaret and Eddie. We will begin promptly at 8:30am, and end at 8:45 each morning.

Monday: The basics with Margaret
Tuesday: Begin with breath with Eddie
Wednesday: Stress better with Margaret
Thursday: Motivation and compassion with Eddie
Friday: Real-life micro-meditations with Margaret
Click here to join the meditation each day on Zoom. The meeting ID is 862 0598 1900 and the passcode is  460372.
The first week of May is national Well-Being Week In Law, so head over to this website to learn more about wellness. Also, click here to locate local resources on our Wellness page.

Swearing-in for Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Grant on Friday, May 7

Ms. Jacqueline D. (“Jackie”) Grant will be sworn in as Superior Court Judge in Judicial District 28, Buncombe County, on May 7, 2021, at 4pm. Ms. Grant was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to fill the vacant seat created by the retirement of Judge Marvin Pope, and is the first Black female resident Superior Court Judge in Buncombe County. The swearing-in ceremony will be live-streamed online at Buncombe County’s Facebook Page @buncombegov, and will not be open to the public.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Alan Z. Thornburg said, “We are thrilled to welcome Judge Grant to the bench. She has been a treasured leader in our community for years and has both the skills and temperament to be a superb jurist.”

Ms. Grant is a partner and litigator with Roberts & Stevens, where she began working over 25 years ago and has practiced her entire career. She served as the 124th President of the North Carolina Bar Association (2018-2019) and was previously a distinguished member of the Board of Governors from 2010-2013. In 2014-2015, Ms. Grant became the first Black woman to serve as president of the Buncombe County Judicial Bar. She has been recognized as a North Carolina Super Lawyer in Personal Injury Defense: Medical Malpractice, and has been elected to Business North Carolina magazine’s Legal Elite for Employment Law.

An Asheville native and committed community leader and volunteer, Ms. Grant is currently on the board of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has previously served on the boards of Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, the City of Asheville Sustainable Economic Development Task Force, the University of North Carolina at Asheville Foundation, the Western Carolina University Board of Visitors, YMCA of Western North Carolina, and YWCA of Asheville. Ms. Grant earned her Bachelor of Science at Western Carolina University and her Juris Doctor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law.

For more information, contact Cindy Crawford at the Superior Court office at 828-259-6473, or cindy.crawford@nccourts.org.