State Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby appointed Andrew T. Heath to lead the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts, according to a North Carolina Judicial Branch press release today. Heath served as a superior court judge with statewide jurisdiction, where he heard both civil and criminal cases. He replaces McKinley Wooten Jr., who was appointed by former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley as the interim director of the Administrative Office of the Courts in 2019 and later took the permanent spot.
Then-Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Heath for a five-year term as a special superior court judge in December 2016 to fill a vacancy, right before leaving office following his loss to Gov. Roy Cooper in the election.
His role will be to manage and oversee the administrative services provided to the Judicial Branch’s more than 6,400 employees and hundreds of courthouses and facilities in every county of the state, the press release stated.
Heath will continue his judgeship by serving as the AOC director and does not intend to vacate his judicial term, according to the AOC.
“I look forward to working with the courts and our many stakeholders as we continue to work through the pandemic,” Heath said in the press release.
Prior to his judicial tenure, Heath served as McCrory’s budget director of the Office of State Budget and Management from 2016 to 2017.
McCrory previously appointed Heath chair of the Industrial Commission in 2013. Heath was a McCrory donor in 2012, state campaign finance records show.
Newby welcomed the new director in the press release, “His broad experience and in-depth wisdom gained in the Judicial Branch and throughout state government make him an excellent choice for this important work.”
Heath challenged Judge John Arrowwood for his seat at the Court of Appeals in the 2018 election, but lost.
Heath’s appointment comes at a time when the new chief justice stressed the importance of the “Constitutional mandate that courts shall be open.”
A directive by Beasley halting most in-person court proceedings because of the COVID-19 pandemic is scheduled to expire Jan. 14. As of today, 24 counties reported closings and modifications of their court sessions.