March 18, 2021

Dear MCB Members,

We are presenting you with the Justice Access Initiative Report. Under the leadership of Chase Saunders and Kathi Lucchesi, this report represents the work of over 90 of your peers in every practice sector, from large firms to small firms to corporate counsel to public sector attorneys including members of the judiciary, the Register of Deeds and the Clerk’s office.

As I indicated when I was sworn in back last May, the purpose of this report was to begin the conversation on how we collectively as a profession move forward post COVID-19. This report represents the research of practitioners on every level of our industry in Mecklenburg County. In addition, this document provides practice area specific recommendations from those same practitioners on how best to implement changes that will help their practice area overcome the year-long delay created by COVID.

This is not a document that was written by the MCB Board of Directors. Rather, this is a document written by your practice area colleagues. It is being provided to you in the same format in which it was provided to the Board of Directors. The Justice Access Initiative at all times has been a grassroots peer review of the challenges of COVID-19 and peer recommendations to overcome the same. In other words, when those that make decisions regarding how to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 ask the question, “I wonder what the lawyers think?”, this report will provide some thoughts in that direction.

Thank you,

Heath Gilbert, 2020-21 MCB President

Final Report


Key Court Officials Respond to JAI Report


At the May 21, 2020, MCB Annual Meeting, now MCB President Heath Gilbert announced the creation of the Justice Access Initiative to prepare recommendations on how to move the legal profession forward and provide meaningful access to justice in a post-pandemic world. 

JAI Purpose Statement:

A healthy and accessible justice system is required if a community is to be healthy. The Justice Access Initiative is a platform for the development of the innovative, transformative, equitable, accessible, affordable, and cloud-based (online) system we must rapidly implement to provide access to the justice system ecosystem with a consideration on all of its sectors and specialties.  

The Justice Access Initiative is commissioned to facilitate the legal community’s development of an action plan to address the effects of the pandemic on those using and seeking legal services. An examination of problems, solutions, enabling technologies, education, implementation and training strategies will be examined. A multi-sector report will be issued within 90 days of program launch to the Mecklenburg County Bar.

JAI Members:
Hon. Chase Saunders, Co-Chair
Kathi Lucchesi, Co-Chair
Heath Gilbert, MCB President
Leah Campbell, MCB Executive Director
Shelby Benson, MCB Executive Assistant

Hon. Carla Archie Rick McDermott
Courtney Ballard Emon Northe
Brian Cromwell Anne Tompkins
Jim Gronquist Hon. Elizabeth Trosch
Professor Susan Luck      Asst. Clerk Mandana Vidwan

Much of the justice system has been shut down or its use severely limited by COVID-19. Just as the schools must find a way to re-open, so must the justice system.

The purpose of the JAI is to engage the Mecklenburg County legal community in an effort to study and make recommendations concerning the changes we must make in order to re-open the justice system and provide justice for all. Remote technology use must be a part of this. Adopting and adapting to change is our challenge. 

The work of the JAI has been divided into a Criminal Sector & a Civil Sector.  A Technology-Education Sector relates to both of those sectors.

Criminal Sector:

This sector will examine the impact on defendants, counsel, citizens, law enforcement and the administration of justice at the state & federal levels.

Civil Sector:

This sector has been divided into several smaller teams by either functionality or area of practice. The teams and their focus are as follows:

  • Clerk’s Practice: Filings, defaults, judgments & collections, foreclosures, estates, executions, & guardianships
  • District/Superior Court Practice: Motions hearings/bench trials, jury trials, discovery/subpoenas/releases, & filings
  • Magistrate’s Practice: Evictions, small claims, & filings
  • Dispute Resolution: Arbitration & Mediation
  • Family Law
  • Real Estate: Notary, Commercial, & Residential
  • Immigration
  • Indigent Services/Administrative Matters: Pro Se, Social Security, & Veteran’s Affairs


This sector will examine the technologies, such as remote hearing and trial technologies, associated with the online delivery of justice-related services. The educational requirements associated with the changes of adoption and adaptation to new ways of accessing and providing justice is also a topic. Cybersecurity is a critical part of a consideration of new technology and education.

 The JAI welcomes input from all members of the MCB. This is your chance to provide a lasting impact on the future of the legal profession. If you have thoughts or ideas you want to share, please fill out the form below and your information will be shared with the appropriate team leader(s).