Friday night I had the privilege of joining a dinner to honor four retiring (or recently retired) superior court judges who have devoted many years of extraordinary service to the Pattern Jury Instructions Committee. The North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions—those enormous volumes providing instructions on all manner of criminal, civil, and motor vehicle issues—are continuously updated through the hard work of a committee of ten trial judges. Every month these judges pore over the details of new legislation and appellate opinions, and they sacrifice many weekends each year traveling to the School of Government to craft instructions that best reflect current law. The time commitment is, as they say, “no joke.”
Which brings us back to the four: Bob Hobgood, Richard Doughton, Lindsay Davis, and Beverly Beal. As most trial lawyers in the State probably know, Judge Hobgood is North Carolina’s longest-serving superior court judge—37 years—and he has been the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge in his district the entire time. Over the decades Judge Hobgood has served his profession too many ways to count, but one is by being the long-time Chair of the Pattern Jury Committee. Of his 37 years as a judge, he has spent 31(!) on this Committee, and he has been its glue. In just this one way, his impact on the profession in North Carolina can hardly be overstated.
At this past October Superior Court Judges’ conference, the School honored Judge Hobgood for his Pattern Jury service in front of all of his judge colleagues and his wife, Martha. We have heard loud applause in the atrium before, but when I asked the crowd to give it up for Judge Hobgood, I think the windows shook.
At last Friday’s dinner, although an honoree himself, Judge Hobgood took the opportunity to praise Judges Doughton, Davis, and Beal for their collective decades on the Committee. He also honored them with engraved bricks that will appear in the School of Government’s entranceway. Each of these judges talked about the special privilege of serving on the committee and noted that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of their legal careers.
Like Judge Hobgood, Judges Doughton and Davis are leaving the committee only because of mandatory retirement and not because they want to. (Similarly, Judge Beal’s retirement was effective in 2012. He was also honored for his Pattern Jury service at a prior October conference. Since then he has regularly returned to the School of Government to instruct his fellow judges on the Pattern Jury software.)
The good work of the Committee continues through its other members. The criminal subcommittee consists of Judges Quentin Sumner (taking over as criminal chair from Judge Doughton), Anna Mills Wagoner, Jesse Caldwell, and new members Tom Lock and Ed Wilson. The civil subcommittee consists of Judges Charles “Chuck” Henry (taking over as civil chair for Judge Hobgood), Don Bridges, and Allen Baddour. Judge Bridges will be replacing Judge Hobgood as overall chair of the Pattern Jury Committee.
The work of the judges is facilitated by the excellent research support of two lawyers, Senior Associate Dean Alan Woodlief of Elon Law School and Robert Desmond, partner at Smith Anderson law firm in Raleigh. In turn, these attorneys are aided by two hard-working law clerks – currently Alex Murphy, 3L at UNC Law and Sarah Trombley, 2L at Elon Law. Together these four prepare the background materials and drafts for every committee meeting and, right along with the judges, spend many Saturdays each year holed up in School of Government conference rooms working on the final product.
Production of the instructions is funded by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Each year’s final revisions are brought over the finish line by the School of Government publications department, through Kevin Justice. I serve as faculty liaison between the School of Government and the Committee and provide formatting review. (Jim Drennan and Tom Thornburg held this role for many years before me.) Hard copies of the instructions are available through the School of Government, and the electronic version with full editing capabilities is available through Steve Winsett at CX Corporation. For more information about the North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions, follow this link on the School of Government Web site, where you will also find a free PDF version of the instructions.