Government of North Carolina
The government of North Carolina is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. These consist of the Council of State (led by the Governor), the bicameral legislature (called the General Assembly), and the state court system (headed by the North Carolina Supreme Court). The Constitution of North Carolina delineates the structure and function of the state government.
The ten-member North Carolina Council of State is composed of the:
- Lieutenant Governor,
- Secretary of State,
- Attorney General,
- Commissioner of Agriculture (head of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services),
- Commissioner of Insurance,
- Commissioner of Labor,
- Superintendent of Public Instruction (head of the Department of Public Instruction and secretary of the State Board of Education),
- State Treasurer,
- and State Auditor.
Eight other executive department heads appointed by the governor form the North Carolina Cabinet, composed of the:
- Department of Administration,
- Department of Commerce,
- Department of Cultural Resources,
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources,
- Department of Health and Human Services,
- Department of Revenue,
- Department of Public Safety,
- and Department of Transportation.
The North Carolina General Assembly is the state legislature. Like all other states except for Nebraska, the legislature is bicameral, consisting of the 120-member North Carolina House of Representatives and the 50-member North Carolina Senate. Both the state House and the state Senate currently have Republican majorities. The lieutenant governor is the ex officio president of the state Senate. The Senate also elects its own president pro tempore and the House elects its speaker.
The state court system is led by the Supreme Court of North Carolina, the state supreme court, which consists of seven justices. The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the state's intermediate appellate court and consists of fifteen judges who rule in rotating panels of three. Together, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals constitute the appellate division of the court system.
The trial division includes the Superior Court and the District Court. The Superior Court is the state trial court of general jurisdiction; all felony criminal cases, civil cases involving an amount in controversy in excess of $10,000, and appeals from the District Court are tried (de novo review) in Superior Court. A jury of 12 hears the criminal cases.
The District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. It has original jurisdiction over handles family law matters (divorce, child custody, child support); civil claims involving less than $10,000; criminal cases involving misdemeanors and lesser infractions; and juvenile cases involving children under the age of 16 who are delinquent and children under the age of 18 who are undisciplined, dependent, neglected, or abused. Magistrates of the District Court may accept guilty pleas for minor misdemeanors, accept guilty pleas for traffic violations, and accept waivers of trial for worthless check and other charges. In civil cases, the magistrate is authorized to try small claims involving up to $5,000 including landlord-tenant and eviction cases. Magistrates also perform civil marriages. District Court conduct only bench trials, with no jury.