In his first major announcement as chief justice, Paul Newby has named Superior Court Judge Andrew Heath director of the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.

Heath, a former state budget director, will manage the administrative services provided to the judicial branch’s more than 6,400 employees and 213 judicial facilities in every county, with a budget of roughly $550 million. Heath’s role begins immediately. 

“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,” Newby said. “Judge Heath stands ready to work with courts statewide to assist and equip them with the resources and equipment they need to administer equal justice for all.”

Heath will be Newby’s point man to get the state courts up and running, a priority highlighted by Newby in his formal investiture ceremony Jan. 6. 

Newby continued: “That is the constitutional requirement that the courts shall be open. Open courts available for all the citizens is not a luxury, it is a mandate.”

Newby believes that court personnel — including clerks, district attorneys, and magistrates — be given priority to receive COVID-19 vaccines. 

Heath will be tasked with making this happen, and he’ll work with the General Assembly on budget proposals to resume and accelerate court functions while maintaining safety during the pandemic.

Newby has indicated he intends to give local courthouses more say on how to resume normal operations and make up for lost time.

Jeanette Doran, president and general counsel of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, said Health’s appointment is key for Newby.

“The Administrative Office of the Courts plays a critical, albeit often overlooked and under-appreciated, role in government. The director manages the day-to-day functioning of the operations and budgeting of the judiciary — the third branch of government,” said Doran. 

“As for Drew, I’ve worked with Judge Heath in a variety of capacities over the years. He’s a straight shooter and dedicated worker, the kind of man who always brings his A-game to public service. He leaves the politics to the politicians and just gets the job done.”

Heath is finishing a four-year stint as a Superior Court judge.

While serving as chairman of the N.C. Industrial Commission, Heath presided over appeals of workers’ compensation cases. In three years as chairman, he wrote numerous legal opinions and managed all aspects of the Industrial Commission’s operations and all 160 employees. As director of the Office of State Budget and Management, Heath was responsible for advising Gov. Pat McCrory on North Carolina’s $510 billion GDP economy and $22.3 billion state budget. 

“It is an honor to be of service in this capacity to the Judicial Branch and this great state,” said Heath. “I look forward to working with the courts and our many stakeholders as we continue to work through the pandemic.”

Heath attended UNC Asheville on an athletic scholarship and received a bachelor of science in business administration and management. He earned his law degree from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.