The N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby’s Task Force on ACEs-Informed Courts issued its final report on November 30, 2023. Chief Justice Newby, a member of the Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School’s advisory board, established the task force in March 2021.
ACEs stands for “adverse childhood experiences” and represents the concept that traumatic experiences, especially early in life, can physically reshape the brain—resulting in health outcomes, as well as changed behavior, that may result in court-involvement. The task force was designed to make the judiciary more responsive to this reality. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) was asked to lead this effort with the mission of “enabling Judicial Branch stakeholders to understand the impact on children of exposure to ACEs at an early age; and to develop strategies for addressing adverse consequences within the court system.”
Amelia Ashton Thorn, assistant director of the Bolch Judicial Institute, served as the chair of the task force’s educational subcommittee, helping to facilitate the Institute’s involvement through education programs for judges and a Bass Connections research project on how judges and families interact in juvenile delinquency court. Thorn said that a highlight of being part of this work was seeing the difference that a trauma-informed approach can make.
“The work we have done through this task force has made and will make a real difference in the lives of people who are justice-involved,” Thorn said. “We are grateful to the Chief Justice for his leadership on this important issue, and we have been fortunate to be contacted by those in other states who are looking to replicate the work of the task force. We are only at the beginning of a cultural shift in how our courts look and operate to make them better places for everyone.”
For more information and to read the task force’s final report, visit nccourts.gov.