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Nhampton opposes judicial changes

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners held an emergency meeting here Wednesday night in order to discuss the state legislature’s proposed judicial redistricting plan. They passed a resolution opposing the potential changes that they believe will disproportionately affect the county.

Currently, Northampton County is in judicial District 6 along with Bertie, Hertford, and Halifax counties. Before 2015, Halifax County was in its own separate district. A mandated merger from the NC General Assembly four years ago caused significant changes to the judicial district, none of which, according to local officials, was positive for the counties involved.

The resolution from the Northampton Commissioners outlined these changes by stating it resulted in “the elimination of two (2) critical judgeships in District 6B, the elimination of one (1) district attorney and reductions in other critical court positions and resources, causing significant challenges in court operations, understaffing and overworked judicial personnel, and access to justice and equity for our community.”

With the new redistricting plan, which potentially adds Warren and Vance counties into the district, the commissioners believe the problems from the last merger will only be further exacerbated.

The Board’s resolution states their opposition of the proposed plans until a more inclusive and comprehensive study has taken place. They ask that the study would be a collaboration of important stakeholders such as “members of the judiciary, the law enforcement community, and the general public” to determine the most efficient distribution of judicial resources.

The resolution continues to elaborate on requests from the commissioners to be included in the study. Some of these focus points include cost analysis for transportation within the district, cost analysis of operating all criminal and civil courts, and cost analysis for additional law enforcement manpower and resources needed to meet the increased financial and safety burden.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the four Board members in attendance voted unanimously to pass the resolution of firm opposition to the proposed redistricting changes, especially in light of the hardship it would allegedly place on the county’s already strained judicial system.