STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE
COUNTY OF BUNCOMBE DISTRICT COURT DIVISION TWENTY-EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT
December 20, 2021
Re: Jury Trial Resumption in the District Courts of Buncombe County
Consistent with 7A-146, the Chief District Court Judge has the authority to the administrative and operational direction of the District Courts.
While the Courts are allowed to resume jury trials under the Chief Justice’s Order, on this matter he has expressly indicated that each jurisdiction would need to make the determination on specifically when jury trials could be resumed efficiently and safely.
Buncombe County under the guidance of our local health officials have redesigned the Historic 5th floor Courtroom to be compliant with safety protocols for holding jury trials. We have limited courtroom space, at this time, to hold jury trials in compliance with safety protocols. While the 5th floor Courtroom is a “Superior Court” Courtroom, Judge Thornburg has graciously agreed to allow the District Courts to use it when the Superior Courts are not using it for Superior Court matters.
The Superior Courts resumed jury trials in the reconfigured 5th floor courtroom in February and continue to resolve matters by way of jury. We still have limited courtrooms consistent with safety protocols for holding jury trials in this Covid atmosphere. While jury trials do happen in District Court and litigants can request them in limited situations, they do not make up a large part of our trials in District Court.
The large part of trials in District Court are still “bench trials” or trial by Judge. District Court, on average, will do one or two jury trials a year. For this reason, we do not believe the administration of justice will be hampered to any substantial degree by further postponement of jury trials in the District Courts.
We will continue to monitor this situation related to Covid and will resume jury trials in the District Courts as soon as it can be done safely.
The District Courts will not be starting to do jury trials at this time because of the limited amenities to do so safely. We will however continue to do our non jury matters. We will again review the progress of Superior Court jury trials after February 15, 2022 to determine the availability of the 5th floor Courtroom for District Court jury trials.
The District Courts will resume jury trials as soon as practically possible and will continue to process non jury trials during jury/non jury sessions. Parties who have requested jury trials, who want to modify their request, and have their case heard by a Judge have the right to do so.
This Order becomes effective immediately, this 20th day of December, 2021.
Chief District Court Judge Buncombe County
Honorable J. Calvin Hill