The district courts of North Carolina are called to handle a multitude of legal issues, many of which are vital, personal issues facing individuals in our society. Court dockets swell with cases for resolution, due in part to substance use disorder, addiction, and legal issues that frequently arise as a result of them. The court must adjudicate in the midst of these complex challenges experienced by the litigants. These litigants are also increasingly appearing before the court without legal counsel. In Reinventing the Courts: The Frontiers of Judicial Activism in the State Courts, criticism is leveled at courts that attempt to solve these problems. Under legislative direction and ethical duty, a North Carolina district court judge may utilize collaborative and problem-solving methods to bring cases to a resolution. These methods, despite the criticism of Frontiers, are not far beyond the historically contemplated purposes of courts and are well within long-standing structural safeguards, statutory requirements and ethical obligations. In many instances, the court is called to resolve these issues and formulate plans for resolution of these cases by the North Carolina General Assembly. The challenges that present in court everyday often need these approved, prescribed problem solving approaches to answer the needs of the litigants.
The Honorable J. Hoyte Stultz III, Fences and Gates: A Survey of Collaborative Aspects of District Court Practice in Light of Self-Represented Litigants, Addiction, and the Mandate to Formulate Plans, 43 Campbell L. Rev. 77 (2021).