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Trial Court Administrator’s Office (TCA)
To provide fair and accessible justice to the community is the fundamental mission of the Court and its justice partners in Mecklenburg County. We are committed to working collaboratively with the community to prevent and solve problems to enhance the quality of life for all. In the State’s largest and most complex judicial district, we administer, deliver and uphold justice with a commitment to the fundamental values and principles of: Justice, Fairness, Integrity, Respect, Wisdom, Cooperation, Quality and Community Responsibility.
The Trial Court Administrator’s main function is civil case management, to assure that civil cases move through the court system as efficiently and expeditiously as possible. They keep track of civil cases filed in both superior and district courts, determine when cases are ready for trial and assist the judges in preparing the calendar for terms of civil court. In addition to the analyses of effective court operations, the Trial Court Administrator is responsible for the oversight and administration of court services such as:
- Caseflow and Jury Management
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Family Court
- Drug Treatment Court
- Custody Mediation
- Fine Collection
- SelfServe Center
To help resolve cases involving children and families through the combined efforts of the family, the Court, and community services. To approach each case in a way that is not overly adversarial or intrusive, but always in a just, timely, and efficient manner. To be courteous, safe, and accessible and to provide quality service to those in need.
The Family Court has jurisdiction over all domestic, juvenile, domestic violence, and mental health commitment actions filed in Mecklenburg County. It refers or orders litigants to intervention services that are relevant to the issues that are before the court. These services help to remedy those family issues that create obstacles to resolving the case. Services may include parent education, mediation, counseling, psychological evaluation and testing, supervised visitation and exchange, and specialized services for children.
Civil Clerk’s Office
The District Court is divided into 42 district court districts. The jurisdiction of the District Court is extensive and may be divided into four categories: criminal, civil, juvenile, and magisterial.
The criminal jurisdiction of the District Court Division includes preliminary “probable cause” hearings in felony cases, and virtually all misdemeanor and infraction cases. The District Court also has jurisdiction to accept guilty pleas in certain felony cases. Trials in criminal and infraction cases are by district court judges; no trial by jury is available for such cases. Appeals are to the superior court for trial de novo before a jury.
In addition, the district courts share concurrent jurisdiction with the superior courts in general civil cases. However, the District Court is the “proper” division for general civil cases where the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less. Civil cases in District Court may be tried before a jury; appeals are to the Court of Appeals.
All civil cases involving claims for money damages of $15,000 or less are subject to court-ordered, non-binding arbitration. Certain property disputes, family law matters, estates, special proceedings, and class actions are excluded from court-ordered arbitration. If a case is not resolved at arbitration, it may be appealed and heard before a judge or jury.
The court’s jurisdiction also extends to all juvenile proceedings, mental health hospital commitments, and domestic relations cases. Juvenile proceedings concern children who are delinquent, undisciplined, abused, neglected, or dependent. These proceedings are initiated by petition, and the hearing conducted by the judge may be less formal than in adult cases. Juveniles alleged to be delinquent are entitled to have the court appoint counsel for them.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court designates a chief district court judge for each district court district. The chief district court judge is responsible for the effective and efficient operation of district court within the district.
Magistrates are also judicial officers of the District Court Division. In criminal cases, magistrates issue arrest and search warrants, conduct initial appearances, and determine conditions of pretrial release. For some relatively minor offenses they may accept guilty pleas, impose punishment and conduct trials. In civil cases, they preside over the trial of small claims ($5,000 or less).
The Superior Court consists of the superior court, which is the trial court of general jurisdiction in North Carolina. The counties are grouped into 46 superior court districts, which in turn are grouped into eight divisions. One or more superior court judges are elected for each superior court district.
The Superior Court is the proper division for the trial of civil actions in which the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000. It is also the proper division, without regard to the amount in controversy, for certain special proceedings, condemnation actions and proceedings, corporate receiverships, review of decisions of administrative agencies, and where the principal relief sought is injunctive or declaratory to establish the validity of a statute, ordinance or regulation, or enforcement or declaration of any claim of constitutional right. In addition, the Superior Court Division, through the clerk of superior court, has exclusive original jurisdiction for probate of wills and for administration of decedent’s estates.
As to criminal jurisdiction, the Superior Court has original jurisdiction in all felony cases and in some misdemeanor cases. Most misdemeanors are tried first in the District Court, from which a conviction may be appealed to the Superior Court for trial de novo by a jury. Both criminal and civil cases in superior court are tried before a twelve-person jury.
The North Carolina Constitution requires superior court judges to rotate between districts, or “ride circuit.” Each superior court judge holds court for at least six months in a superior court district. The rotation method was developed to avoid any favoritism that might result from always having the same judges hold court where they live, where they might be personally familiar with and interested in the cases brought before the court.
The senior resident superior court judge is responsible for court operations within the district. By statute, the senior resident superior court judge is the most senior judge in the district and is responsible for carrying out various administrative duties and appointing magistrates and some other court officials. Civil court covers the following areas:
- Civil Filing District and Superior
- Family Court Child Support
- Small Claims
- Special Proceedings
Criminal Clerk’s Office
North Carolina has more than 400 criminal laws. Cases are heard in both District and Superior Courts. The most serious cases, the ones that often result in a prison sentence of at least one year or more, are felonies and they are usually heard in Superior Court.
Felonies include such things as breaking and entering, assault, sale or delivery of controlled substance, forgery, rape, incest, murder or embezzlement. Misdemeanor offenses are heard in District Court. A person convicted of a misdemeanor offense may receive a small amount of active jail time depending upon the person’s prior criminal record.
Note: Some violations of the law, particularly minor traffic violations, are treated as ‘infractions’ rather than crimes. Infractions are processed in District Court in much the same way as criminal charges. However, a person found responsible for an infraction will not be subject to active jail time.
District Court also conducts preliminary hearings to determine if there is enough evidence or probable cause to bind a defendant over to the grand jury for indictment to stand trial in Superior Court.
The state is divided into 64 Superior Court districts with 105 Superior Court judges who preside over 280,000 cases each year. The fact that a person is charged with an offense does not mean that he/she committed the crime. Guilt must be determined by a judge or jury.
If a person has been arrested and unable to post bond, he or she will be escorted to court by a uniformed law officer on the appropriate date. If a person is free on bail, he or she must be in court at the appointed time indicated on the release order. If a person has been served with a summons, he or she must report to the county courthouse at the designated time on the summons and find the courtroom in which the case will be heard. There will be a list of names outside the courtrooms. Find your name and enter that courtroom. If you cannot find your name on any of the lists, check with the clerk of courts office located in the courthouse.
For more information on what to do once you have arrived at the courthouse, see the court’s page on Frequently Asked Questions.