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Catharine Arrowood Helps Present Framework for ‘Dramatic, Systemic Improvement' of North Carolina Court System

    News, Community
  • March 23, 2017

One of Parker Poe’s key values is public service. The firm has a long tradition of encouraging its partners to run for elective office, to serve the judicial community and to volunteer within their communities.

About two years ago, North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin began to work on the concept of convening a commission to undertake a study of the North Carolina judicial system.  Two decades had passed since the last comprehensive review of the state’s court system. In September 2015, the chief justice brought together business leaders, academics, attorneys, judges and others to begin a new top-to-bottom review. Together, they made up the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice (NCCALJ).

Raleigh Parker Poe partner Catharine Arrowood was asked to chair one of the commission’s five committees, the Legal Professionalism Committee.

On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, along with Associate Justice Barbara Jackson, Arrowood stood front and center at the North Carolina Supreme Court to present the chief justice with the commission’s final report.  The recommendations cover all aspects of the North Carolina judicial system and include improving the state’s indigent defense system, using data analytics to reduce case delays, and raising the juvenile age from 16 to 18 for crimes other than violent felonies and traffic offenses.

Chief Justice Martin said in a statement: “The commission’s recommendations create a framework for dramatic, systemic improvement in the administration of justice in North Carolina. The work of this blue-ribbon commission will help ensure that North Carolina’s judicial branch meets the needs and expectations that the people of North Carolina have for fair, modern and impartial courts.”

The committee Arrowood chaired, Legal Professionalism, found that the current licensing structure for lawyers is not always conducive to the delivery of legal services in this internet-based age. 

“We have Cadillac licensing of lawyers when there are a lot of services that our citizens need for which they do not need the Cadillac lawyer,” Arrowood says. Her committee recommended studying ways to make legal services more accessible while protecting the public and ensuring the principles of professionalism.

Her committee also recommended the creation of a Legal Innovation Center to undertake constant review of the judicial system, rather than waiting for a special commission to be appointed every few decades.       

“It really makes sense for us to have a state government entity or advisory committee that is charged with paying attention to the delivery of legal services in North Carolina and constantly thinking about how to do it better and more efficiently,” Arrowood says.

Now that the recommendations have been released, Arrowood’s work continues. This week she wrote an editorial for Capital Broadcasting Company about the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.  Next week, she will participate in a Twitter Town Hall convened by the North Carolina Bar Association and NCCALJ. Arrowood, Justice Jackson and others will discuss the recommendations and answer people’s questions. 

The Twitter Town Hall is from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Monday, March 27. Questions can be submitted in advance here or be tweeted that day using #AskNCCALJ. 

This outreach is the latest example of how Parker Poe continues its commitment to public service, as well as how a firm that started in the late 1800s keeps evolving to meet the needs of its community. Our attorneys include former mayors, school board chairs and leaders of charitable organizations. We understand that as lawyers, we have an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference.