The U.S. Chamber of Commerce conducts a national survey each year on the fairness and competence of judges and juries in each of the states around the country. The survey is sent to more than 1,400 corporate attorneys around the country. In the latest survey, North Carolina’s court system ranks as the 20th best in the nation(1)
For the fourth straight year, Delaware ranked as the best state court system in the country. Nebraska was ranked second, followed by North Dakota, Virginia, and Iowa. At the bottom of the list are Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Illinois. Illinois’ low ranking stems in large part from Madison County, Illinois, often cited as one of the worst jurisdictions in the country.
North Carolina judges were given an “A” for impartiality by 10% of the survey respondents, which is a relatively high ranking. 9% also gave North Carolina judges an "A" for competence. With respect to North Carolina juries, only two percent of the respondents gave North Carolina juries an "A" for predictability, and only 6% gave North Carolina juries an "A" for fairness. Most of the responses on both judges and juries were "B’s" and "C’s" (ranging from 31% to 46% of the responses). One of the worst grades for North Carolina’s judicial system was on punitive damages. Twelve percent of the respondents gave North Carolina a "D" on that score.
On overall treatment of tort and contract litigation, 6% of the respondents gave the North Carolina system an "A", 44% a "B", and 36% a "C."
Mississippi and West Virginia have enacted major reform measures in the areas of workers’ compensation and tort reform in the past year. Those two states’ rankings are expected to rise in the next survey.
(1) NCCBI Legislative Bulletin (March 11, 2005).