North Carolina Appellate Courts on several occasions have ordered new trials in cases due to the improper questioning of witnesses by the trial judge. Nonetheless, other Appellate Court opinions hold that limited questioning by the trial judge is appropriate and even necessary to promote clarity and to expedite the trial. We should all agree that the underlying purpose of every trial is to arrive at truth in the case and thus attempt to do justice. Clarity promotes justice. If the judge recognizes confusion at trial, limited intervention and questioning is allowed. The question becomes how far and under what circumstances may the trial judge intervene? A trial judge may intervene in the situations listed below, as well as others, without being subject to reversal on appeal. As I discuss the problems and possible solutions to the question presented, one must keep in mind that, under North Carolina trial procedure, no judge is allowed to voice any opinion as to whether any fact is fully or sufficiently proven as that invades the province of the jury.
The Hon. Hamilton H. Hobgood, When Should a Trial Judge Intervene to Question a Witness?, 3 Campbell L. Rev. 69 (1981).