New court program helps people learn to get along - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

New court program helps people learn to get along

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On any given day in Mecklenburg County someone can take an arrest warrant out on someone else by heading down to the Magistrate's Office. Sometimes the dispute involves neighbors, friends, or even family members.

Some of the cases are serious, but not all of them deserve trial time. To help unclog the system, Mecklenburg County court officials decided to try something new several months ago.

It's called Citizens Warrant Court and so far, it's a success. The court uses volunteer mediators to help litigants work through their issue.

Twice a month, courtroom 4330 is a full house. There's no jury. Just one judge, a few attorneys and a crowd of people who need to resolve a case. 

"Sometimes people let their emotions overcome them," said Judge Theo Nixon, who oversees the court. He says people can be quick to seek out an arrest warrant, but they often regret the end result.

With Citizens Warrant Court, Nixon assigns a volunteer mediator to each case. It saves everyone time, money and aggravation.

Most of the cases deal with threats, trespassing, property disputes, or harassing phone calls.

"If we can get some agreement...we won't have to take out court time dealing with the issue," said Assistant District Attorney Bruce Lillie. He says the mediators free up prosecutors who can focus on more serious cases.

Lillie says the first six months shows results. He says out of 235 people offered mediation, 80-percent agreed to participate. Out of those cases, 78-percent of those cases successfully resolved or dismissed.

Nixon says the process teaches people to communicate, respect each other and work things out.

Maybe next time, no one has to come to court.

The mediators are provided by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations Department. The court never hears cases of domestic violence or serious felonies.

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