OBXFS Interning at the Dare County Justice Center

My name is Caroline Pharr, I am a Senior at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Public Policy. During the Fall 2020 Outer Banks Field Site I had the opportunity to work at the Dare County Justice Center, in the Assistant District Attorney’s Office in Manteo, North Carolina. My internship mentor for this semester is Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Karpowicz Bland. Assistant District Attorney Bland is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and UNC law school, and is a long term Outer Banks resident.

Caroline Pharr on the right and Assistant District Attorney Bland on the left

One of the highlights of my internship has been the opportunity to observe court. At the Dare Center I have had the opportunity to observe and assist in Superior Court.  It has been my goal to pursue a career in environmental justice, either in policy or law. Working with my internship mentor over the fall semester has shown me what a career in environmental law might look like.

In addition to working in Dare County, I had the opportunity to travel to Currituck County to observe District Court. I was able to see the difference in the Dare County and Currituck County court proceedings. On this trip to the Currituck County Justice Center, I was able to see a community with different social economic groups then that of Dare County, and how those differences affected the dynamics in court. One specific contrast was the civil violations between farmers and land owner rights.

Currituck County Justice Center

What I have learned during my internship is that North Carolina District Courts can be divided into four categories; civil, criminal, juvenile, and the magistrate. District Court civil cases involve hearings for divorces, custody over children, child support, and cases involving less than $10,000. It also deals with minor criminal cases involving misdemeanors and infractions. Whereas in contrast to District Court, proceedings in Superior Court involve all felony criminal cases and civil cases involving more than $10,000. In addition, appeals made for misdemeanor and infraction cases from District Court are also tried in Superior Court.

Another experience that has been a highlight is getting to meet the Candidate for Chief Justice of North Carolina Paul Newby.

Justice Paul Newby

This being an election year, the Dare County Justice Center was a stop for Justice Newby to meet and speak with the Dare County voters, and he toured the court house and met with those of us working at the Justice Center. I had the chance to speak with him about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as how college students are adjusting to online university in the wake of COVID-19.

As someone who will be going to law school after graduation, it was very exciting to meet one of the few people whose interpretations of the law will affect the lives of the people who reside in North Carolina.


~ Caroline Pharr (Class of 2021)