Chief Justice Beasley Announces New Commission on Fairness and Equity

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced on December 30, 2020 the creation of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Fairness and Equity. The commission, created by an order of the Supreme Court of North Carolina in October, is charged with making recommendations “to reduce and ultimately eliminate disparate treatment, impacts, and outcomes in the North Carolina judicial system.” The commission will be co-chaired by Associate Justice Michael Morgan of the Supreme Court and Judge Valerie Zachary of the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

“Generations of North Carolinians have devoted their lives to improving the administration of justice in our courts. The Commission on Fairness and Equity will continue that legacy through work that seeks to guarantee full civic participation in our society and eliminates disparate treatment and outcomes in our courts,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “Under the leadership of Justice Morgan and Judge Zachary, I am confident the commission will achieve those goals and continue to push our justice system forward.”

The Court’s order acknowledges inequalities in the judicial system “that stem from a history of deeply rooted discriminatory policies and practices and the ongoing role of implicit and explicit racial, gender, and other biases,” and issues a number of specific charges to be completed by the Commission in 2021 and 2022, including:

  • Recommendations to eliminate adverse consequences based solely on inability to pay a legal financial obligation;
  • Recommendations to ensure that no person is prevented from serving on a jury as a result of explicit or implicit bias;
  • Plans to fully implement the remaining recommendations of the Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice reports on Pretrial Justice, Improving Indigent Defense Services, and Criminal Case Management;
  • Creation of educational programming for court officials and personnel and the private bar to build cultural competency and understanding of systemic racism, implicit bias, disparate outcomes, the impacts of trauma and trauma informed practices, and procedural fairness;
  • Plans to collect and disseminate data on court performance, including criminal charging, case outcomes, case processing times, and racial and gender disparities;
  • Plans for eliminating racial and gender disparities in the administration of abuse, neglect, and dependency cases; and
  • Plans for obtaining and analyzing feedback from the public, jurors, litigants, witnesses, lawyers, victims, law enforcement, and system employees regarding the performance of the judicial system and system actors.

With the formation of the Commission, North Carolina’s Judicial Branch joins a majority of states with similar commissions charged with rooting out discriminatory treatment and outcomes in state courts. According to the National Consortium on Racial and Ethnic Fairness in Courts, at least 37 other states have such commissions, several of which have existed for more than 30 years.

Members of the Commission announced today include:

  • Justice Michael Morgan, co-chair
  • Judge Valerie Zachary, co-chair
  • Justice Samuel J. Ervin, IV
  • Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Bradley Letts
  • Superior Court Judge Carla Archie
  • Chief District Court Judge Lee Gavin
  • District Court Judge Lori Christian
  • District Court Judge Susan Dotson-Smith
  • District Attorney Seth Banks
  • Public Defender Deonte Thomas
  • Clerk of Superior Court Sara Beth Fulford Rhodes
  • Chief Magistrate Wanna Whitted
  • Trial Court Administrator Amanda Leazer
  • Representative Sydney Batch, Partner, Batch, Poore & Williams, PLLC
  • Dean Browne Lewis, North Carolina Central University School of Law
  • Professor Kevin Lee, Campbell University School of Law
  • Winston-Salem Chief of Police Catrina Thompson
  • Debra Teasley, Probation/Parole Officer, Cumberland County
  • Ed Hall, Juvenile Court Counselor, Pasquotank County
  • Alissa Brashear, Investigative Assessment Treatment Social Worker, Cumberland County
  • Ames Simmons, Policy Director, Equality NC
  • Raul Pinto, Senior Attorney, NC Justice Center
  • Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director, Forward Justice
  • Skye David, Staff Attorney, NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault
  • Ayana Robinson, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid of North Carolina
  • Derrik Anderson, Executive Director, Race Matters for Juvenile Justice

Ex-officio members to the Commission include:

  • Representative Pricey Harrison, Guilford County
  • Gary Salamido, President and CEO of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce
  • Janice Brumit, Chair, Dogwood Health Trust