Activist Bree Newsome (right) talks with Atlantic staff writer and Charlotte native Vann Newkirk II.
David Boraks / WFAE

A wave of police shootings in recent years has left authorities in Charlotte and across the nation searching for ways to rebuild trust. Speakers at a forum uptown Tuesday organized by The Atlantic magazine focused on the city's history of racism and segregation as well as a criminal justice system that they say treats people of color and those with lower incomes unfairly.

Tasnim Shamma

This summer, lawmakers cut more than $3.5 million from the state court system. Since 2009, more than $133 million has been cut from the judicial branch and more than 600 positions have been eliminated.

These cuts mean local courthouses are underfunded and overworked, says Todd Nuccio. He's the trial court administrator for Mecklenburg County: 

"Yes, the work gets done. But the question is: could we be doing so much more? Could we be doing so much better? And the answer is clearly yes."

But sometimes, the work doesn’t get done. Trials across the state are being canceled or postponed because of a shortage of court reporters caused by those budget cuts.

Campaign finance records show $1.3 million were spent on North Carolina’s sole Supreme Court primary this year.  It’s a dubious state record that raises concerns over the impartiality of justices relying on big dollar donations to keep their seats.

scales of justice

In recent years public sentiment toward the justice system, both at home and nationwide was quite skeptical and negative. In response, Justice Department officials began a series of reforms including Justice Reinvestment. Proponents say that reforms are working but challenges remain. We'll hear from officials on the front lines of the justice system, learn more about Justice Reinvestment, what reforms are working and what is left to be done to achieve smart justice, when Charlotte Talks.

There is an ongoing debate about how we seat judges in North Carolina. On one side are supporters of partisan judicial elections, on the other the appointment of judges by the sitting Governor. Other scenarios have been introduced as well. Last year Governor Perdue issued an executive order creating an 18 member committee to select a slate of judges for the Governor to choose from. One of Governor McCrory's first acts was to repeal that order. We'll look at how we choose judges in our state and some of the most popular suggestions for reform, when Charlotte Talks.

Every so often, increasingly it seems, we hear about the grisly, gruesome crimes of a maniac. We flip on the news to learn that someone else has snapped on a school campus or at a shopping mall. This time it was at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, where 20 first-graders and 6 adults were killed by a young man wielding a semi-automatic rifle. Sadly, this is only the latest example – from the Aurora Theater shooting in July to the Sikh Temple in August and the Tucson shooting last year – there are too many in recent memory. We watch the news in horror and wonder why. Can we ever really understand why or how someone could take so many innocent lives? We’'ll attempt to find out and peek into the mind of a madman. We'’ll also take a look at ourselves. What does it mean when this news receives days and weeks of coverage? When the shooter’'s face is plastered everywhere? We examine that and more, when Charlotte Talks.