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According to nccourts.gov/learn/court-officials where you can click on the word magistrates, “A magistrate is an independent judicial officer, recognized by the North Carolina Constitution as an officer of the district court. Magistrates perform numerous duties in both civil and criminal proceedings. Magistrates are not elected, but are nominated for office by the clerk of superior court, appointed by the senior resident superior court judge, and supervised by the chief district court judge. A magistrate serves an initial term of two years, with subsequent terms of four years.”
Responsibilities of a magistrate in North Carolina include criminal proceedings like conducting initial appearances, set conditions of release such as bonds and bond amounts, issue warrants and more as well as civil proceedings like hearing small claims cases, entering orders for summary ejectment known as evictions, involuntary commitments, marriages and more.
Talk to most any magistrate or clerk of court and you’ll learn there are bonding guidelines. Despite a large public sentiment that bonds should be higher in a lot of cases, it’s important to understand bonds are to assure a defendant’s appearance in court. Bonds are not for punishment.
There is online a fiscal year 2019-2020 North Carolina Magistrate Fact Sheet (click here), and it states, “In order to be eligible for nomination or re-nomination as a magistrate, a candidate must be a resident of the county for which he or she will be appointed. The candidate also must have a four-year college degree or eight years of work experience as a clerk of superior court; or a two-year associate degree and four years of work experience in a job related to the court system, law enforcement, or other public service work. Many magistrates are attorneys, but they are not required to be, and those who are attorneys are prohibited from practicing law while in office as a magistrate.
“A magistrate serves an initial term of two years, with subsequent terms of four years. While magistrates are not under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Standards Commission like judges are, they must obey the Code of Judicial Conduct, and the grounds for removing magistrates are the same as for removing judges. Judges, justices, and magistrates share the same mandatory retirement age.”
The Judicial Branch uses a workload formula to determine the appropriate number of magistrates per county. Magistrates are salaried employees who provide services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They account for about 10 percent of the judicial workforce in North Carolina and about nine percent of the judicial budget in the state with the figure being about $51 million.
There are six magistrate positions in Vance County, and one of those is vacant as of this publication.
To read more from North Carolina General Statutes, click here for Article 16 as it pertains to magistrates from the web site ncleg.net. Among other things, you can read about a magistrate’s training requirements.
As an aside, in fiscal year 2019-2020, district and superior courts combined disposed of over 2,250,000 cases in North Carolina.