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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Establishing procedures and protocol for the North Carolina Court of Appeals

Here, Morris describes how she and the other original members of the North Carolina Court of Appeals established the procedures and protocols of the court. Her comments offer insight into the inner workings of the court system and reveal the rationale behind the use of certain procedures, such as three person panels and the writing of opinions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Naomi Elizabeth Morris, November 11 and 16, 1982, and March 29, 1983. Interview B-0050. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PAT DEVINE:
Describe the process a bit of doing the judging, including the routine. That interests me also, when you first got there how you organized so that the record on appeal would reach you and so forth.
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
The first thing we had to do was set up some rules for the practicing attorneys. The making of rules for the court is the prerogative of the Supreme Court, regardless of what the legislature thinks. The Supreme Court has the right and duty to make the appellate rules, and so we set about getting up some rules for the Court of Appeals and submitted them to the Supreme Court, and they were adopted. Then those rules were sent out to all the lawyers, and we began getting appeals filed in, I guess, November or December, but we didn't have any hearings until early in the next year. All of the lawyers had to have the time to give their notice of appeal and get their records in to the court. Although we became a court as such in July, we didn't hear any appeals until the next year, because it took all that time to get the rules done and to notify the lawyers, to get the rules out and let them know what the time frame was within which they had to work. The time within which, after they gave notice of appeal, they had to have their record docketed, and the time within which, after the record was docketed and filed, they had to have their briefs in, so it took months to get that done. Then after all the lawyers were notified and the appeals started coming in, we started holding hearings early in 1968.
PAT DEVINE:
In the very first times, after you would have heard a case. . . . You would have sat on a panel of three, is that correct?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Mm-hm.
PAT DEVINE:
After you would hear the arguments, has it always been true since the beginning that you would immediately confer together as a panel of three?
JUDGE NAOMI ELIZABETH MORRIS:
Yes, just as soon as the oral arguments were concluded, the judges sat together and considered. At the very beginning there were only two panels. The Chief Judge of the Court presided over one panel, and the next in seniority was Judge Campbell, who presided over the other panel. It was only at the end of the year, when they sat with each other, that there was another presiding judge for either one of the panels. The statute requires that the judges sit with each other one time during the year, which was no problem as long as there were only six judges, but it is a problem with twelve judges. But from the very beginning, after the arguments were heard the judges conferred and discussed the cases that were argued and came to some conclusion as to what the outcome should be, at least a preliminary conclusion. Then the matter was assigned to one of the members of the panel to write, and after the person to whom it was assigned had finished at least a draft opinion, it was circulated to the other two members of the panel. They read it and studied it, and if they conferred and agreed with it they would sign it as concurring. If they didn't, the person who didn't agree would write a dissenting opinion. If both of the other two members of the panel disagreed, then the person who originally had been assigned the opinion to write would be the person who wrote the dissenting opinion, and the senior member of the two who did not agree would become the person who wrote the majority opinion. Frequently, as long as we were only six members, the opinions would be discussed among all the members of the court, and that was a very good thing because you got fresh input, you got ideas, and you got the opportunity to discuss principles of law and points of law and their application to the facts in that case with all the members of the court. At that time, we all knew what everybody else was working on, and we all discussed them. It was a very congenial group. We were a very close group, the original court.