Buncombe County Courthouse Covid-19 Mask Requirements

The following administrative order was issued today, August 5, 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. (This document is hereinafter referred to as this “Local Order of August 5, 2021”.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now suggests that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in public spaces. Governor Cooper also urges everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear masks indoors. Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders recommends that operators of indoor public spaces require face coverings regardless of vaccine status during this time of high transmission.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina in his May 10, 2021 Order recognized that “local courthouses are in the best position to address health and safety concerns.”

Given recent increases in positive COVID-19 cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations, the predominance of the highly-transmissible Delta variant and the efficacy of masks in lowering transmission rates of COVID-19, masks will be required for all employees and visitors entering Buncombe County Court facilities.

Pursuant to the inherent authority of this Court and the authority delegated by the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

I.

Each employee and visitor (unless exempt by reason of youth or medical status) entering any Buncombe County Court Facility shall be required to wear a face mask compliant with the specifications of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exceptions to this mandate may be made by any judicial officer acting in her/his discretion presiding over an individual proceeding.

II.

All other mandates of this Court’s May 16, 2021 Order (attached hereto) will remain in effect, including guidelines for court operations and the continuation of certain provisions of the 28th Judicial District Jury Trial Resumption Plan.

This Order becomes effective immediately, this 5th day of August, 2021, and remains in effect until superseded by order of the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court or further order of the Court.

Honorable Alan Z. Thornburg, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge

Honorable J. Calvin Hill, Chief District Court Judge

Honorable Steven D. Cogburn, Clerk of Superior Court

Emergency Directives Rescinded by Chief Justice Paul Newby

Chief Justice Paul Newby issued a new order on June 21, 2021 that rescinded the order issued on June 7, 2021. Last Friday, Governor Cooper signed into law Senate Bill 255 that codified the essential tools included in the June 7, 2021 order. These legislative changes render that order unnecessary. As of the date of today’s order, none of the Chief Justice’s COVID-19 related emergency directives remain in place.

Local Order Regarding Face Coverings in Courthouse

ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER

June 11, 2021

Re: Buncombe County Courthouse Covid-19 Mask Requirements

 

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.  (This document is hereinafter referred to as this “Local Order of June 11, 2021”.)

On May 13, 2021 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations, noting that fully vaccinated people are less likely to transmit COVID-19.

Governor Cooper followed suit on May 14, 2021, issuing an Executive Order citing the improvements in the State’s key COVID-19 metrics and the progress in the State’s COVID-19 vaccinations. Noting the obstacles involved in distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated North Carolinians, the Executive Order provides that the face covering requirement could be lifted in most settings, and the capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements could be lifted for all settings.

Pursuant to the May 10, 2021 Order of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, 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 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.

The Chief Justice recognized that “local courthouses are in the best position to address health and safety concerns” and emphasized that, “[g]iven the grave impact of further delaying justice, it is imperative that the Judicial Branch do its best to continue to move closer to fully opening courts.”

Pursuant to the June 7, 2021, Order of the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice “extend[ed] for an additional thirty-day period only those emergency directives that provide the necessary tools to effectively dispose of those accumulated cases and therefore administer justice without delay” (i.e Emergency Directives 3 and 5) (See attached).

Given recent statewide and local improvements in key COVID-19 metrics, including COVID-19 daily diagnoses, the percent of total COVID-19 tests that are positive, the number of emergency department visits that are due to COVID-like illnesses, and the number of COVID-19 associated hospitalizations, the emergency directives of previous orders of the Chief Justice (with the exception of Emergency Directives 3 and 5) will not be extended and will not be in effect in Buncombe County after June 12, 2021.  Each judicial officer will exercise his or her discretion in conducting proceedings in a manner so as to maintain the health and safety of court staff and the public.

After June 12, 2021, face coverings will no longer be required for individuals admitted to Buncombe County court facilities unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer.   Any individuals entering Buncombe County court facilities who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to wear CDC-compliant face coverings at all times while in said facilities.  

 IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

I.

The Emergency Directives extended pursuant to the June 7, 2021, Order of the Chief Justice (Emergency Directives 3 and 5) and this Local Order of June 11, 2021 will expire July 4, 2021.

II.

Non-jury Superior Court, District Court and Clerk of Superior Court proceedings may be conducted through remote audio and video transmissions in the discretion of the judicial official with jurisdiction over an individual proceeding and in compliance with Emergency Directive 3 of the Order of the Chief Justice. In accordance with Section 18 of Article I of the Constitution of North Carolina these proceedings are open to the public and arrangements can be made with the appropriate administrative personnel of the court/Clerk hearing the matter to access the remote proceeding.

III.

All criminal and civil Superior Court jury trials will continue in-person.  Existing spacing of jurors, witnesses, attorneys, judicial officers and court personnel as well as plexiglass barriers will continue as implemented pursuant to the 28th Judicial District Jury Trial Resumption Plan

 

This Order becomes effective immediately, this 11th day of June 2021.

_____________________________                                ______________________________

Honorable Alan Z. Thornburg                                          Honorable J. Calvin Hill

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge                             Chief District Court Judge

 

______________________________

Honorable Steven D. Cogburn

Clerk of Superior Court

 

Read the complete order here: Buncombe admin 6-2021.

Chief Justice Newby Issues New Order Related to COVID-19

Chief Justice Paul Newby issued a new order on June 7, 2021 containing Emergency Directives related to COVID-19. The order is set to expire on July 4, 2021.

The new order differs significantly from the order entered by Chief Justice Newby on May 10, 2021, and modified by him on May 14, 2021, to eliminate Emergency Directive 21 (face coverings in courthouse facilities). Citing the accumulation of pending cases during the COVID-19 outbreak, and the importance of providing justice without delay, the new order includes only those Emergency Directives deemed necessary for the prompt disposition of pending cases. It also strongly encourages senior resident superior court judges to do whatever they can to resume jury trials.

The following Emergency Directives from the May 10 order will remain in effect and unchanged:

Emergency Directive 3 (remote proceedings)
Emergency Directive 5 (verification of pleadings and other filings)

The following Emergency Directives from the May 10 order do not appear in the new order and will expire on June 6, 2021:

Emergency Directive 2 (persons likely exposed to COVID-19 should not enter the courthouse)
Emergency Directive 11 (COVID-19 coordinator)
Emergency Directive 14 (submission of filings to the clerk of court)
Emergency Directive 15 (extension of filing deadlines for mailed filings)

The new order can be found at this link.

New Local Order Regarding Mask Requirements

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, COUNTY OF BUNCOMBE

IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE

TWENTY-EIGHTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

 

ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER

May 17, 2021

Re: Buncombe County Courthouse Covid-19 Mask Requirements

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. (This document is hereinafter referred to as this “Local Order”).

On May 13, 2021 the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations, noting that fully vaccinated people are less likely to transmit COVID-19.

The face covering requirement remains in effect with respect to public transportation, childcare centers, camps, long term health care facilities, homeless service providers, and clients of homeless service providers.
Governor Cooper followed suit on May 14, 2021, issuing an Executive Order citing the improvements in the State’s key COVID-19 metrics and the progress in the State’s COVID-19 vaccinations. Noting the obstacles involved in distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated North Carolinians, the Executive Order provides that the face covering requirement could be lifted in most settings, and the capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements could be lifted for all settings.

Pursuant to the May 10, 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 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.

The Order recognized that “local courthouses are in the best position to address health and safety concerns” and emphasized that, “[g]iven the grave impact of further delaying justice, it is imperative that the Judicial Branch do its best to continue to move closer to fully opening courts.” Pursuant to the Order, the Chief Justice extended Emergency Directives 2, 3, 5, 8, 1 1, 12, 14, 15, and 21 for an additional thirty days to ensure the continuing operation of essential judicial functions, and the same shall continue to be carried out by the undersigned. However, pursuant to the May 14, 2021 Modification of the Order (“the Modification”), Emergency Directive 21 (requiring face coverings in common areas of court facilities) is eliminated and “instead leaves that decision to the informed discretion of local court officials.’

Given the large and now increasing volume of business in Buncombe County court facilities and local information regarding COVID-19, the undersigned determine that Emergency Directive 21 shall be extended through June 12, 2021. Therefore, face coverings must be worn by anyone conducting business inside the courthouse unless directed otherwise by a court official. As we monitor the re-opening of the state by way of relaxed COVID-19 protocols, we will re-evaluate remaining safety measures for court facilities.

Buncombe County Courts have operated without a closure for more than one year during the COVID-19 pandemic, and jury trials resumed February 15, 2021. This has been possible because of open lines of communication between courthouse stakeholders and the public, sound guidance from local and state health professionals, and safety modifications to court facilities.

We believe some continued restraint is necessary for the safe operation of our courts and for the safety of court personnel and citizens doing business in the courts. This order will expire June 12, 2021 unless extended by the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Order and Modification of the Chief Justice, it is HEREBY ORDERED that:

I. The Emergency Directives extended pursuant to the Order of the Chief Justice (Emergency Directives 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, 12, 14 15, and 21) shall be extended through June 12, 2021 unless superseded by further order of the Chief Justice.

II. All judicial officials should minimize large gatherings to the greatest extent possible. The judicial official with jurisdiction over an individual proceeding will determine compliance with this directive.

III. District Courts will utilize AM, PM time slots as necessary. Calendar calls will occur in District Court for persons who are notified to appear.

In-person non-jury criminal Superior Court proceedings will continue to be addressed using time slots allocated to each individual case to avoid unnecessary congregation of individuals. Separate calendar calls will continue to be held for morning and afternoon sessions.

Non-jury civil Superior Court proceedings will be scheduled by the Trial Court Administrator. Civil Superior Court calendar calls will not be conducted.

VI. Non-jury Superior Court, District Court and Clerk of Superior Court proceedings may be conducted through remote audio and video transmissions in the discretion of the judicial official with jurisdiction over an individual proceeding and in compliance with Emergency Directive 3 of the Order of the Chief Justice. In accordance with Section 18 of Article I of the Constitution of North Carolina these proceedings are open to the public and arrangements can be made with the appropriate administrative personnel of the court/Clerk hearing the matter to access the remote proceeding.

Vll. All criminal and civil Superior Court jury trials will continue in-person in compliance with all other provisions of this Local Order and the Order of the Chief Justice. Existing spacing of jurors, witnesses, attorneys, judicial officers and court personnel as well as plexiglass barriers will continue as implemented pursuant to the 28 th Judicial District Jury Trial Resumption Plan

Vlll. All District Court jury trials will be continued in the discretion of the presiding judge to a date no sooner than June 14, 2021.

This Order becomes effective immediately, this 18th day May of 2021.

Signed,

Honorable Alan Z. Thornburg, Chief Resident Superior Court Judge
Honorable J. Calvin Hill, Chief District Court Judge
Honorable Steven D. Cogburn, Clerk of Superior Court