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State’s high court convenes in Hendersonville

The seven black-robed justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court sat in a court session farther west than ever on Tuesday morning, giving Hendersonville a state record, if a short-lived one.

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The court was scheduled to meet Wednesday in Asheville, which will take the western-most title and presumably hold it for a while.
The court session at the Historic Courthouse was part of the state Supreme Court’s 200th birthday celebration, marking the court’s creation on Jan. 1, 1819. Initially made up of three justices who served “for periods of good behavior” – meaning they almost never left – the court met in Raleigh until politicians in the west insisted on monthly sessions in Morganton. Those started in 1847 and continuing until 1861, when the Civil War made travel impractical.
Until Tuesday, the court had never sat west of Morganton to perform its official duties. The court’s history does have two important connections to Henderson and Buncombe counties. During its sessions in Morganton, more than two-thirds of the appellate cases were argued by either one of two Asheville brothers, John and Nicholas Woodfin. And one of the three original justices, Judge Leonard Henderson, is the political figure Henderson County named for.
The court heard two cases, each taking up one hour. The first was a property compensation dispute appealed from the North Carolina Business Court. The next case, more interesting, was the appeal of a Transylvania County man convicted of a murder for hire scheme.
County commissioners, judges, lawyers and court personnel attended, and the rest of the seats in the Board of Commissioners meeting room in the Historic Courthouse were filled with high school students.
“It was cool to see what actually
happened, instead of what’s in the movies,” said Emma Dillian, a freshman in the Student Government and Leadership class at East Henderson High School. She said she “somewhat”
followed the legal arguments, adding she’s interested in pursuing a business career.
“It was a wonderful opportunity for our students to be included in something like this,” said David Corhn, who brought Emma’s class to the courthouse. “This is something that has happened six times in over 150 years. This is an opportunity to experience something that hopefully they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”
Anderson Ellis, Henderson County Bar Association president, invited the Supreme Court to Hendersonville when he first heard about the “Celebrate North Carolina Courts” anniversary.
“I’m absolutely proud having them in Hendersonville,” he said. “They’ve never been this far west.”