District Court Judge’s Mission to Help Youth, Families, Mentally Ill

District Court Judge’s Mission to Help Youth, Families, Mentally Ill

The Honorable Marcia H. Morey champions programs to help the state's youngest offenders get their lives back on track

Photo by Briana Brough

Born in Decatur, Illinois, Marcia moved to Durham in 1989. Her pre-Durham life included representing the United States at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal as a swimmer and spending three years as the NCAA’s first female investigator. She spent her first 18 years here as an elected county judge. When she isn’t in court, Marcia enjoys playing with her puppy, Cooper, volunteering at Durham Public Schools and running on our city’s many trails.

While she has presided over a range of cases during her career, Marcia says those involving youth and families are closest to her heart. She championed a number of initiatives, beginning with the establishment of Teen Court in 1994, and more recently, the Misdemeanor Diversion Program in 2014. “North Carolina is the only state, aside from New York, where you can be tried as an adult at 16,” she says. Marcia helped launch these programs to ensure that the state’s younger offenders receive help to get back on track through a combination of community service and education.

“Judge Morey has been a terrific leader of Durham’s district court bench for many years, and she has the total respect of everyone in our community,” says City Council Member Steve Schewel. “Her efforts to divert our young people from the criminal justice system have been inspired and very successful. The Misdemeanor Diversion Program is working to repair the lives of our young people rather than to stigmatize them for life with a jail sentence.”

Marcia’s future measures include a mental health court, providing those who suffer from mental illness with the opportunity for individualized legal procedures. There are still mountains to climb – Marcia notes poverty, homelessness and gun violence among Durham’s continuing problems. Still, she says, “I wouldn’t live anywhere else,” describing her 30 years here as time spent “rowing a boat in the same direction as the rest of my community.”

Editor’s Note: Since publishing this story in our April issue, Judge Marcia Morey was voted into the North Carolina House to serve out a two-year term in the 30th District seat, which was most recently held by the late Rep. Paul Luebke, who passed in October 2016.