STATESVILLE, N.C. — The North Carolina Court of Appeals is holding a special session in Statesville on November 7, 2017 and the Iredell County legal community is gathering to celebrate the court’s 50th anniversary.
The special session will be dedicated to former Chief Judge Robert Alfred Hedrick. Robert Alfred “Fred” Hedrick was born in Statesville, North Carolina on 23 August 1922. He graduated from the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in 1943, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1946, and from its School of Law in 1949. Hedrick served as Iredell County’s prosecuting attorney for eight years and as a judge on the Recorder’s Court in Statesville for 10 years. In 1969, Governor Robert Scott appointed Hedrick to the newly created North Carolina Court of Appeals. Hedrick served on the Court of Appeals for 24 years, eight of those years as the Court’s chief judge.
His former colleagues say that Hedrick possessed a brilliant legal mind and an incredible memory. He wrote notes to himself using a Braille typewriter and dictated his opinions into a recorder to be transcribed. His law clerks say he was a perfectionist who insisted on getting his opinions done early.
Though Hedrick could not see, he was keenly perceptive about people and things taking place in the world around him. He was also known for his sharp sense of humor and devilish ability to play clever pranks on his unsuspecting colleagues and law clerks. Hedrick was also well known for his love of music and a deep baritone voice, and he often sang at civic clubs, weddings, funerals, and in church choirs. He once sang with UNC classmate Andy Griffith before Griffith went on to television and movie fame.
In a 1970 newspaper story, Hedrick said, “I don’t feel I have accomplished anything unusual that a lot of other people couldn’t have done. I just hope that what I have done might serve to help the 10,000 people in North Carolina who are blind.”
The public is invited to attend as a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals hears cases as part of a special session in Statesville. This event will celebrate the court’s 50th anniversary and educate the community about the role of the North Carolina courts. This special session is an extension of the Court of Appeal’s commitment to civic education and an effort to increase awareness of the role the court system plays in the lives of North Carolinians.
Under the North Carolina Constitution, the Judicial Branch is established as an equal branch of government with the legislative and executive branches. North Carolina’s court system, called the General Court of Justice, is a unified statewide and state-operated system. Before 1966, North Carolina operated under a hybrid court system with a supreme court (the appellate court) and a superior court (general jurisdiction trial court), funded by the State and uniform statewide; however, there were numerous other local courts operated statewide.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Supreme Court of North Carolina was one of the busiest in the country. Faced with an increasing number of cases dealing with its customary judicial business and a number of post-conviction appeals based on constitutional issues resulting from recent United States Supreme Court decisions, the court was becoming overburdened. This situation led the 1965 General Assembly to submit a proposed amendment to Article IV of the North Carolina Constitution. The new amendment authorized the creation of an intermediate court of appeals to relieve pressure on the N.C. Supreme Court by sharing the appellate caseload. Voters overwhelmingly approved this recommendation in the November, 1965, election. The 1967 General Assembly enacted the necessary legislation establishing the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals became operational on October 1, 1967. The constitutional changes and legislation of the 1960s created the state’s current multi-level court system. The judicial branch now contains two trial divisions, the District Court Division and, above it, the Superior Court Division. The Appellate Division now consists of two levels — the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court that decides questions of law in cases appealed from superior and district courts, and from certain administrative agencies of the Executive Branch. The court has 15 judges who serve eight-year terms and hear cases in panels of three. The court is led by a Chief Judge who is appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals decides only questions of law in cases appealed from superior and district courts and from some administrative agencies of the executive branch. Appeals range from infractions to non-capital murder cases. This special session provides a unique opportunity for attendees to see the court in action.
The panel of judges for this session includes:
• Judge Linda McGee (Chief Judge)
• Judge Robert N. Hunter Jr.
• Judge Hunter Murphy
Attendees will include local students, lawyers, and court personnel. The general public is welcome to attend.
The event is on Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 2:00 pm in the County Commissioners Meeting Room, Iredell County Government Center located at 200 South Center Street, Statesville NC. Built in 1899 as the Iredell County Courthouse, the building is a historically significant three-story, square Beaux Arts building that served as the county’s courthouse until 1970. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
The 50th anniversary of the Court of Appeals continues to unite members of the legal and judicial community with North Carolinians across the state. For more information on how the Court of Appeals is commemorating this historic anniversary, or to request a speaker to discuss the role and importance of the Judicial Branch at your next event, please visit Celebrate.NCcourts.org.
Additional information about the special session in Iredell County can be obtained from Jim Mixson, Clerk of Superior Court for Iredell County at 704-832-6600.
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