UPDATE–Order Concerning Court Operations in Buncombe County

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE
COUNTY OF BUNCOMBE JUDICIAL DISTRICT 28

IN THE MATTER OF THE OPERATION
OF THE SUPERIOR and DISTRICT COURTS
ORDER CONCERNING COURT OPERATIONS

January 13, 2021 through February 12, 2021

This matter comes on before the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge and Chief District Court Judge of the 28th Judicial District, in exercise of their in-chambers jurisdiction, through the “inherent power the court [having] the authority to do all things that are reasonably necessary for the proper administration of justice” (Beard v. North Carolina State Bar, 320 N.C. 126, 129 (1987)) and pursuant to authority delegated by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.

Pursuant to the January 14, 2021, Order of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina (“the Order”) (herewith attached), the Chief Justice directed adherence to Article I, Section 18 of the North Carolina Constitution providing that “[a]ll courts shall be open” and that “justice shall be administered without favor, denial, or delay.” The Order also required the Judicial Branch to fulfill this mandate in ways that prioritize and protect the health and safety of judicial officials and employees and the public.

The Order rested with “local judicial officials substantial decision-making authority over when and how to conduct jury trials and other in-person proceedings.”

The Chief Justice determined and declared under N.C.G.S. § 7A-39(b)(2) that catastrophic conditions resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak have existed and continue to exist in all counties of this State.

Buncombe County is currently categorized as tier red/critical by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services based upon COVID case rates, positive test percentage and hospitalizations.

The Chief Justice extended Emergency Directives 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14, 15, and 21 (see the Order attached) for an additional thirty days in order to ensure the continuing operation of essential judicial functions, and the same shall continue to be carried out by the undersigned.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Order of the Chief Justice, it is HEREBY FURTHER ORDERED that:
I.
No superior or district court proceeding, including proceedings before the clerk of superior court, may be scheduled if doing so would result in members of the public sitting or standing in close proximity and/or for extended periods of time in contravention of current public health guidance.

Judicial officials should continue to make use of remote hearing technology to the greatest extent possible to limit in-person appearances.

All judicial officials should minimize large gatherings and face-to-face interactions between court personnel and the public to the greatest extent possible. The judicial official with jurisdiction over an individual proceeding will determine compliance with this directive.

II.
No jury trials shall be conducted in the superior or district court of the 28th Judicial District for the next thirty (30) days, that is no earlier than Monday, February 15, 2021.

III.
All trials will be continued to a future date no sooner than February 15, 2021, to be determined by the district attorney in criminal matters and counsel for the parties and the Trial Court Coordinator Marc Shimberg in civil superior court matters.

IV.
No calendar call will be held for these sessions of civil or criminal court.

V.
All superior and district court proceedings other than jury trials will continue as the undersigned specifically find and conclude that these proceedings can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants. Counsel are encouraged to contemplate the mandates of the North Carolina Constitution Article I, Sections 18, 19 and 21 and act according to their obligations as officers of the court while remaining vigilant to the maintenance of their health, that of their clients and the public.

VI.
All civil superior court motions on the calendars will be heard either by conference call or remotely where consented to by all parties. Mr. Shimberg will contact the parties to make the necessary arrangements for scheduling these hearings. In accordance with Section 18 of Article I of the Constitution of North Carolina these proceedings are open to the public. Any individual interested in accessing the proceedings may do so by contacting the Trial Court Administrator for a link to the proceedings.

VII.
If the parties cannot agree to having the civil matter heard by conference call or remotely, the matter will be rescheduled by the Trial Court Administrator or, if the presiding judge believes that the matter can be heard safely utilizing social distancing and the calendaring of only one motion at a particular time period, the matter may be heard at the originally-scheduled time. Any individuals in the courtroom shall maintain appropriate social distancing (at least six feet apart).

VIII.
Hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and gloves will be provided in the courtroom and shall be utilized by all individuals handling documents.

IX.
Any represented party expressing symptoms of the coronavirus or believing that he/she has been exposed to COVID-19, shall contact his/her attorney for further instructions. Any similarly affected attorney in a criminal matter shall contact the district attorney’s office or civil attorney shall contact Mr. Shimberg.

X.
No individual who has been exposed to COVID-19, or is expressing symptoms consistent with the Coronavirus shall be required to be present in court and shall not enter the courthouse.

Nothing in this Order conflicts with or is inconsistent with the Executive Orders of the Governor of North Carolina, the safety guidelines of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services or the Buncombe County Public Health Department, as this order is consistent with the operations of the state courts as an essential government function pursuant to Article I, Section 18 of the North Carolina Constitution.

So, Ordered this 13th day of January, 2021.

/s/ /s/
Honorable Alan Z. Thornburg Honorable J. Calvin Hill
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Chief District Court Judge

/s/
Honorable Steven D. Cogburn
Clerk of Superior Court

Order of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina

From Chief Justice Paul Newby, Supreme Court of North Carolina

To Judicial Branch Stakeholders:

In the midst of this pandemic, I thank you for all of your efforts over the past several months to ensure that we faithfully implement Article I, Section 18 of the North Carolina Constitution, which mandates that “[a]ll courts shall be open” and that “justice shall be administered without favor, denial, or delay.”

Effective January 14, 2021, I am extending some, but not all, of the emergency directives contained in my predecessor’s order of 14 December 2020 for an additional thirty-day period. (Announcement from New Chief Justice) As I indicated last week in online stakeholder meetings attended by many of you, I am not renewing the order’s emergency directives that significantly restricted, and in some instances prohibited, jury trials and other important judicial proceedings.

As the Judicial Branch strives to balance our “open courts” mandate with the need for caution created by the pandemic’s evolving challenges, I believe that many of the key decisions going forward should be made at the local level and based on local circumstances. Although some emergency directives will expire on January 13, 2021, the risks posed by COVID-19 continue to be serious. I have allowed certain emergency directives to expire because they concern matters best addressed by local judicial officials. With so many of our counties now classified as red or orange by the State’s COVID-19 County Alert System, I urge you to consult with your local health departments and exercise informed judgment when deciding what pandemic-related measures to implement in addition to those mandated or encouraged by the enclosed order.

Sincerely,

Paul Newby Chief Justice
Supreme Court of North Carolina

 

Chief Justice Beasley Orders Extension of Time in Bail Bond Forfeiture Proceedings

Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order on December 31, 2020 further extending time in certain bail bond forfeiture proceedings. The order extends the time for filing motions to set aside and objections to set-aside motions for forfeiture proceedings due for final disposition between April 14, 2020, and January 30, 2021. Today’s order also extends the stay in certain pending forfeiture proceedings to the close of business on January 31, 2021.

Read the full order here: 31 December 2020 – 7A-39(b)(1) Order.

UPDATE–Chief Justice Announces Postponement of Many Court Proceedings for 30 Days

December 11, 2020- Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced today that North Carolina Courts will postpone non-essential, in-person court proceedings for 30 days, beginning Monday, December 14.

“In light of the recent surge of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and in our courts, this pause is necessary to protect the health and safety of our court personnel and the public,” said Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. “Throughout the pandemic, we have moved an unprecedented amount of court work online, including hearings. Those efforts will allow us to limit in-person proceedings for the next few weeks while making sure our courts stay available to serve the public.”

In recent weeks, the number of North Carolina counties categorized as “red” or “orange” by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has more than doubled. More than 80 counties are experiencing substantial or critical community spread of COVID-19. This recent surge in COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations has strained court operations. Since the onset of the pandemic, Judicial Branch officials and employees have reported 291 confirmed positive cases, and over half of North Carolina’s county courthouses have been partially or completely closed due to COVID-19. Eleven of the courthouse closures have occurred in this week alone.

Community spread of COVID-19 is expected to peak through the winter, and it is imperative that court operations remain as limited as possible through the next 30 days. Fortunately, court operations are typically reduced through the end of the calendar year even under normal conditions. With few jury trials scheduled and courts conducting many proceedings remotely, the impact on court dockets should me minimal.

“I am gravely concerned with the recent surge in positive cases, but with this new directive, I am confident that potential exposures will be significantly reduced if we work together to adhere to health and safety guidelines,” said the Chief Justice. 

The Chief Justice is expected to enter an order in the coming days to renew existing Emergency Directives and implement the Emergency Directive announced today.

In addition to today’s announcement, Chief Justice Beasley called a meeting of the Judicial Branch COVID-19 Task Force to discuss emergency directives and policy changes related to the COVID-19 health emergency. The Task Force will meet from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. on December 15, 2020. The media and the public are invited to attend the online meeting via Webex.

To view a list of previous orders from the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court of North Carolina, please visit the continuously updated Coronavirus (COVID-19) announcement page. The public is encouraged to visit NCcourts.gov to find answers to frequently asked questions before calling the local courthouse.  Announcements from local counties about changes to court operations can be found on the county page as well as the closings and advisories page. The public may also visit the Judicial Branch Facebook page and Twitter account to access information related to the coronavirus health concern.

UPDATE–Chief Justice Announces Postponement of Many Court Proceedings for 30 Days

December 11, 2020- Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced today that North Carolina Courts will postpone non-essential, in-person court proceedings for 30 days, beginning Monday, December 14.

“In light of the recent surge of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and in our courts, this pause is necessary to protect the health and safety of our court personnel and the public,” said Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. “Throughout the pandemic, we have moved an unprecedented amount of court work online, including hearings. Those efforts will allow us to limit in-person proceedings for the next few weeks while making sure our courts stay available to serve the public.”

In recent weeks, the number of North Carolina counties categorized as “red” or “orange” by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has more than doubled. More than 80 counties are experiencing substantial or critical community spread of COVID-19. This recent surge in COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations has strained court operations. Since the onset of the pandemic, Judicial Branch officials and employees have reported 291 confirmed positive cases, and over half of North Carolina’s county courthouses have been partially or completely closed due to COVID-19. Eleven of the courthouse closures have occurred in this week alone.

Community spread of COVID-19 is expected to peak through the winter, and it is imperative that court operations remain as limited as possible through the next 30 days. Fortunately, court operations are typically reduced through the end of the calendar year even under normal conditions. With few jury trials scheduled and courts conducting many proceedings remotely, the impact on court dockets should me minimal.

“I am gravely concerned with the recent surge in positive cases, but with this new directive, I am confident that potential exposures will be significantly reduced if we work together to adhere to health and safety guidelines,” said the Chief Justice. 

The Chief Justice is expected to enter an order in the coming days to renew existing Emergency Directives and implement the Emergency Directive announced today.

In addition to today’s announcement, Chief Justice Beasley called a meeting of the Judicial Branch COVID-19 Task Force to discuss emergency directives and policy changes related to the COVID-19 health emergency. The Task Force will meet from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. on December 15, 2020. The media and the public are invited to attend the online meeting via Webex.

To view a list of previous orders from the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court of North Carolina, please visit the continuously updated Coronavirus (COVID-19) announcement page. The public is encouraged to visit NCcourts.gov to find answers to frequently asked questions before calling the local courthouse.  Announcements from local counties about changes to court operations can be found on the county page as well as the closings and advisories page. The public may also visit the Judicial Branch Facebook page and Twitter account to access information related to the coronavirus health concern.