‘Heartbroken’: Outgoing chief district court judge talks future in candid interview

CHARLOTTE — Starting Wednesday, there’s a new chief district court judge in Mecklenburg County.

Judge Roy Wiggins takes the reigns after North Carolina’s Supreme Court chief justice removed Judge Elizabeth Trosch from the job. It’s a rare move and one Judge Trosch spoke about on her last day in that role as she sat down with Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz.

Trosch has heard some of the most gruesome details in court cases while stoically presiding over them. It’s why Sáenz was surprised when he saw another side to her many haven’t seen.

“I can sense this is personal for you?” he asked.

Trosch was emotional when she responded.

“I care very deeply about this community. And I care very deeply about how this court meets the needs of our community,” she said.

Trosch spoke candidly about the passion she’s had for leading policies and judicial officials at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, where she’s been chief district court judge since 2020. But by the end of May, she’ll be back in juvenile court as a district judge.

“Which is where I started and a court in which I can make a difference every day,” Trosch said.

Last Monday, Judge Trosch, who is a Democrat, got a call from North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby, a Republican.

“He simply said that he was grateful for my leadership through the pandemic and the launch of eCourts, but that he wanted to go in a different leadership direction,” Trosch said.

“I wonder, do you believe this at all could be political?” Sáenz asked.

“I think there are lots of lots of priorities that the chief justice has and is seeking to advance within the judicial branch,” Trosch said.

“That seems like a yes,” Sáenz said.

“I just can’t know what was in his mind,” Trosch said.

Trosch said she was never given an exact reason, but she doesn’t believe her policies, controversial bond rulings by her magistrates and judges, or court backlog issues are to blame.

She said she plans to work with new Chief District Court Judge Roy Wiggins to continue the work of the courts, but admits the change still stings. She was emotional again when she spoke about it with Sáenz.

“I’m not going to lie, I was heartbroken,” she said. “But I felt really supported.”

Wiggins shared a statement about Trosch’s departure, saying: “I am thankful for Judge Trosch’s leadership during these last 4 years, especially her efforts during the pandemic and her integral role in the implementation of eCourts. I am looking forward to working with all of the District Court stakeholders as we continue to find ways to improve the efficiency of our court and the prompt and equitable administration of justice.”

Chief Justice Newby’s office did not give Channel 9 a comment on this story beyond announcing the change.

Bond effect?

Sáenz asked Trosch about comments surrounding bonds for repeat offenders.

“As you mentioned, you kind of run the operations and some of the policies and some of the recommendations even for the training that some of these magistrates get, do you think the low bonds, the repeat offenders that we’ve had in this community, do you think that contributed to this?” Sáenz asked.

Trosch said she doesn’t have any reason to think that.

“I don’t. I think that in Mecklenburg, like every other district in the state, we’re following the statues that govern pretrial release decision making,” Trosch said. “I think that we struggle, as every district does, to have all the information to make that risk assessment or have the time to get all of the information to make that risk assessment. And I think that, as we’ve talked about, research shows that paying money doesn’t really impact performance on pretrial release. Studies have shown that over and over again, there are things that can impact conduct on pretrial release, like intentional supervision, service coordination, to ameliorate or mitigate, you know, the circumstances that might contribute to criminal conduct or court involvement.”

(WATCH BELOW: NC bill would change who issues bail for certain offenses)

Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.

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