Dozens speak out to raise juvenile court age, improve justice system


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — This evening, community members around the cape fear got a chance to voice their concerns about the North Carolina justice system.

Dozens of parents showed up to talk to the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice. Among the many lawyers, judges, and public defenders that addressed many concerns about family court and judicial elections, several parents had their own concerns.

Rodney Robbins was one of them. Instead of using bullet points, or a speech, Robbins began telling his son’s story.

“Twenty one years ago, he was 16, a high school student. He and a group of teenagers vandalized cars,” Robbins said.

At 16, Robbins’ son Justin was tried as an adult, because they lived in North Carolina. North Carolina is one of two states that does this.

“So if you commit a crime, any crime, petty crime or otherwise, you have something that stays on your record forever,” Robbins said.

For 21 years, he said they have been dealing with Justin’s record.

“First of all, he’s developmentally disabled, so it’s a very hard time for him to get any kind of employment, let alone with something on his record,” Robbins said.

After years of obstacles, Robbins said the Baltimore Orioles hired Justin when they moved to Maryland.

“There’s 2,500 employees with the Orioles and Justin did so well with the Orioles that he was employee of the month and got an on-field ceremony,” Robbins said.

Then, he said they moved back to Wilmington.

“He went to a local grocery story, got a job was doing well,” Robbins said.

Then, Robbins said the store ran a background check on Justin.

“And they terminated him,” Robbins said.

While changing that age law would not help their case now, Robbins continues telling Justin’s story.

“It just stays with me as a parent,” Robbins said. “I feel like I could have done better for Justin myself. He knew right from wrong.”

Because Robbins said he knew his 16 year old needed to own up to his mistake, but not with 18 year old consequences.

“It’s unfair for a child under the age of 18 to have to face such dire consequences for their whole life,” Robbins said.

Robbins said he wants to continue to advocate for all parents.

This was the second of several public hearings for the justice system across the state. Here are the next times and locations:

Thursday, August 18, 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Buncombe County Judicial Complex, Jury Assembly Suite, 2nd Floor, Room 272, 60 Court Plaza, Asheville, NC 28801
Thursday, August 25, 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth Street, Charlotte, NC 28202

To provide comment at one of these meetings, sign up at www.nccalj.org/interim-reports. You can also leave your comment to the commission online.

Categories: Local, New Hanover