Mecklenburg County chief district court judge to be replaced

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County’s chief district court judge will be replaced in the coming weeks, officials confirmed Tuesday after Channel 9 first broke the story.

North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby plans to replace Chief District Court Judge Elizabeth Trosch, Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz and Joe Bruno first confirmed with multiple sources on Tuesday.

Trosch will be replaced by Judge Roy Wiggins, effective May 1, according to a statement sent Tuesday afternoon by the 26th Judicial District.

According to a statement from Trosch, she was informed on Monday that Chief Justice Newby “wants a different direction in leadership for Mecklenburg.”

The move comes in the wake of recent issues in the Mecklenburg County court. Sáenz has reported on the backlog of cases in Mecklenburg County, low bonds for repeat offenders, and a controversial rollout of the county’s new electronic court system. The new system was ordered by Newby’s office as a county-by-county statewide rollout. Trosch, along with the Mecklenburg County Clerk of Courts, were tasked with the local rollout.

Amid those concerns, Trosch has been active in the community, speaking at city council, and changing policy on setting bonds for certain crimes. Last year, Trosch spoke with Sáenz about repeat offenders being released on bond, and she said issues needed to be fixed by the state legislature.

After Channel 9′s continued reporting, lawmakers took action. Trosch, along with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Johnny Jennings, and Mecklenburg County District Attorney Spencer Merriweather met multiple times and were key players in working with lawmakers to help draft the bill.

‘Different direction’

Trosch sent the following statement to Channel 9 on Tuesday:

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve Mecklenburg County as the Chief District Court Judge over the last four years. I have endeavored to improve our courts by spear-heading collaborative reforms that have advanced procedural justice and improved outcomes across the district. We have come through the COVID-19 pandemic stronger—having executed successful backlog reduction strategies and implemented data driven case management strategies bringing our pending case inventory down to pre-pandemic levels for most case types. Together, we coordinated the successful launch of e-Courts in Mecklenburg County—shepherding our district through the greatest transformation of the courts in our generation.

I am proud of the work we have done together to ensure justice for our community without favor, denial, or delay. We have reduced non-motor vehicle pending cases to 48% below pre-pandemic levels. Our criminal trial courts are more efficient bringing 230% more Driving While Impaired cases to trial and increasing dispositions by 78% compared to FY2019. Similarly, we have brought our felony pending case inventory down from 6,721 cases at the height of the pandemic to 2,373 cases—158% below pre-pandemic levels.

We have successfully reduced our domestic pending cases to below pre-pandemic numbers. Despite taking 43% more domestic filings than the next largest district, we have outperformed Wake County with 85% more dispositions in the last fiscal year. Our Family Court has been effective and efficient having completed 65% more property distribution trials and 100% more child support and child custody trials.

The lack of affordable housing in Mecklenburg County has stretched our general civil court to unparalleled capacity. We have experienced a six-fold increase in eviction cases since 2013. Eviction filings in Mecklenburg County account for 48% of eviction filings statewide. Nevertheless, through data driven case management strategies, we have kept pace with over 70 bench trials per week in our civil courtroom.

As leadership of this district transitions to a new chief, I am confident that I have left it better than I found it. In partnership with local leaders, court staff and partners, a strong foundation has been laid for Mecklenburg to be the most productive and efficient district in the state.”

Trosch was first appointed as Chief Judge for District 26 in February 2020 after the retirement of former Chief Judge Regan A. Miller.

It’s not clear what’s next for Trosch at this time. It’s also not clear what led Newby to the reported plan.

Judge Wiggins serves in District 26 and was elected to Seat 12 in 2018.

Channel 9 has reached out to Chief Justice Newby’s office for a comment.

Statement from Wiggins: “I am thankful to Judge Elizabeth Trosch for her leadership these past four years and consider her a valuable and trusted colleague. As Chief District Court Judge, I look forward to the opportunity to continue to work towards the efficiency of our courts to ensure all parties are treated equitably and fairly.”

This is a developing news story, check back for updates.

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Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.