The state of North Carolina’s system of district courts is a prominent example of the success of legal reform, but also of the difficulties that reform can encounter. From the earliest days of the Lords Proprietors, Old English law played a significant role in colonial judicial administration. As North Carolina expanded, however, growing pains emerged; among the most severe were the availability of courts for small matters, the qualifications of those appointed to serve as judges, and the challenges brought on by interference in the court system by the executive and legislative branches of government. This Article tracks North Carolina’s long journey from judicial pariah to a model of effective governance, including the influence of other states, legal scholars, and public opinion. It concludes that the establishment of a dedicated system of district courts in the state fundamentally improved and continues to maintain—despite recent changes—a robust administration of justice in North Carolina.


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