Last updated: September 24, 2013
As one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, Raleigh is overflowing with music and culture that symbolizes the American South. The “City of Oaks” is home to the musical landmark Walnut Creek Amphitheater and an almost excessive number of art, history and science museums. Raleigh is growing at break-neck speed, and its court system is no different: the ultramodern Justice Center was opened in downtown Raleigh in July 2013.
The North Carolina court system consists of interconnected levels of courthouses that handle different aspects of the legal system or areas of the law. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular issue is critical to your success, so here is a useful guide to some of the key courthouses in Raleigh.
The Wake County Courthouse handles a wide variety of civil matters, such as civil lawsuits, small claims, juvenile and family law, wills and estates and custody mediation. The specialized Family Court, (919) 792-4875, is located inside this courthouse. The Courthouse Deli is convenient and affordable; their muffins are a real treat! But beware of the elevators, which are extremely slow, so make sure you arrive early. Metered parking is available, so load up on quarters.
The Wake County Justice Center mainly handles criminal matters such as felonies, misdemeanors, domestic violence, and traffic infractions. This enormous, state-of-the-art downtown structure also houses the District Attorney and Public Defender, and is the go-to spot for routine legal matters such as marriage certificates or property transactions. Parking is located at 216 W. Cabarrus St., on the corners of Davie, McDowell and Cabarrus streets, but it’s not free.
The Business Court only handles cases involving complex issues of corporate and commercial law. The only way to get your case to Business Court is if the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court assigns your case to a special superior court judge who oversees the resolution of the business matter.
The Court of Appeals reviews decisions made by lower courts. The Appeals Court has 15 judges who review cases in panels of three. A few types of cases, such as first degree murder, skip the Court of Appeals and proceed directly to the Supreme Court. No trials are held at the Appeals Court.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina is the highest court in the state and generally gets the final word in all state legal matters. The Supreme Court reviews civil and criminal cases from North Carolina’s lower courts as well as petitions from decisions by the Court of Appeals. The Court consists of seven justices. No trials are held at the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
The Federal District Court deals with federal trial level matters arising from 44 North Carolina counties, spanning from Raleigh to the Atlantic coast. The Eastern District has six locations, in the cities of Elizabeth City, Fayetteville, Greenville, New Bern, Wilmington and, of course, Raleigh. The Eastern District of North Carolina is part of the Fourth Federal Circuit, which is headquartered in Richmond and has jurisdiction over federal appellate cases arising from North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.