Willis Whichard, former associate justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and two-time UNC graduate, has created an exhibit documenting one of North Carolina’s most powerful institutions.
The North Carolina Museum of History unveiled a new exhibit titled “Law and Justice: The Supreme Court of North Carolina, 1819-2019” on Nov. 15. The exhibit is part of efforts this year to celebrate the bicentennial of the state's Supreme Court.
Whichard said space was a key limiting factor, noting that the court has produced almost 50,000 opinions in its lifetime, but the exhibit does focus on major issues the court has confronted, including slavery, racial segregation and the evolution of environmental law.
He said he hopes North Carolinians will learn how the court affects their daily lives — it's the final judge of questions of state law, and the court’s decisions have rippling effects throughout the state’s history.
“If the question is one purely under the state constitution or under state law, what that court says is final. Those cases then become precedents, and the lower courts rely on them in deciding cases presenting the same or similar factual scenario,” he said. “So those opinions are important, not just to resolve a given dispute, but because they are published and are there, presumably, from now on.”