Response to COVID-19 (Corona Virus) by Buncombe County Courts in light of Chief Justice Beasley’s Directive

To: All

From: Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Alan Thornburg and Chief District Court Judge Hill

Date: March 13, 2020

RE: Response to COVID-19 (Corona Virus) by Buncombe County Courts in light of Chief Justice Beasley’s Directive

The Chief Justice of The North Carolina Supreme Court, Cheri Beasley, held a press conference today at 11:00 am. She announced new Judicial Branch measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 (Corona Virus) among members of the public who have business before the Courts.

The Courts of Buncombe County, both District and Superior, will remain open for business, but will operate consistent with the two Emergency Directives to reduce the spread of this virus.

The Directives of the Chief Justice are as follows:

Emergency Directive 1

I order that all superior court and district court proceedings be scheduled or rescheduled for a date no sooner than 30 days from the issuance of this order, unless:

  1. the proceeding will be conducted remotely;
  2. the proceeding is necessary to preserve the right to due process of law (e.g., a first appearance or bond hea ring, the appointment of counsel for an indigent defendant , a probation hearing, a probable cause hearing, );
  3. the proceeding is for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief (e.g., a domestic violence protection order, temporary restraining order, juvenile custody order, judicial consent to juvenile medical treatment order, civil commitment order, etc.); or
  4. the senior resident superior court judge, chief business court judge, or chief district court judge determines that the proceeding can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.

Pursuant to Emergency Directive 1. Paragraph 4:

  1. Certain criminal superior court proceedings may be rescheduled to dates sooner than  30 days  from the issuance of this order with appropriate notice;
  2. Non-jury superior court civil proceedings will not be affected but parties should contact the Trial Court Administrator for scheduling updates; and
  3. Domestic Violence cases will proceed the normal course unless you are otherwise notified.

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This emergency directive does not apply to any proceeding in which a jury has already been empaneled. This emergency directive does not apply to grand juries which have already been empaneled.

This emergency directive does not prohibit a judge or other judicial officer from exercising any in chambers or ex parte jurisdiction conferred by law upon that judge or judicial officer, as provided by law.

Additionally, I encourage the superior courts and district courts to liberally grant additional accommodations to parties, witnesses, attorneys, and others with business before the courts who are at a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Emergency Directive 2

 I further order that the clerks of superior court shall post a notice at the entrance to every court facility in their county directing that any person who has likely been exposed to COVID-19 should not enter the courthouse. A person who has likely been exposed to COVID-19 who has business before the courts shall contact the clerk of superior court’s office by telephone or other remote means, inform court personnel of the nature of his or her business before the court, and receive further instruction. For purposes of this order, a person who has likely been exposed to COVID-19 is defined as any person who:

  1. has traveled to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, or Iran within the previous 14 days;
  2. has been directed to quarantine, isolate, or self-monitor;
  3. has been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  4. resides with or has been in close contact with any person in the abovementioned

The directives contained in this order will take effect Monday, 16 March 2020.

This order may be extended in whole or in part for additional 30-day periods if necessary.

In light of the emergency involving COVID-19, we are directing any persons with cases pending in the Buncombe County Courts in March or April to (1) Contact your lawyer or Public Defender at (828-259- 3423) and request that your case be continued. (2) Use The District Attorney’s website at www.BuncombeDA.org to request a continuance of your case.

In an effort to divert as many cases as possible away from the Courts, your case may be given a new Court date without you making a request. We will make every effort to give proper notice in the event this happens, but you should not hesitate to contact your lawyer, Public Defender or The Clerk’s Office to make an inquiry.

We will make every effort to keep our Courts running as effectively as possible in light of this emergency. We ask for your patience and your cooperation.

The Honorable Alan Thornburg, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge

The Honorable J. Calvin Hill, Chief District Court Judge

Todd Williams, Buncombe County District Attorney

Steve Cogburn, Buncombe County Clerk of Court

MEMO

ALL matters to be continued for 30 days from March 16, 2020 consistent with Order of the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court except:

FAMILY COURT:

Matters that shall be heard by the Court:

  1. Requests for emergency custody
  2. Return hearings on emergency custody
  3. Hearings pursuant to 50B
  4. Ex Parte requests for restraining Orders and return on restraining Orders
  5. Any other matters the presiding Judge determines (authority being granted by the Chief District Court Judge) may be heard consistent with the Order of the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court

JUVENILE (DSS)

  1. First Appearances
  2. Continued need for non-secure custody hearings
  3. Any other matter that the presiding Judge determines (authority being granted by the Chief District Court Judge) may be heard consistent with the Order of the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court

JUVENILE (Criminal)

  1. First Appearance on Felonies
  2. Secure Custody hearings
  3. Any other matter that the presiding Judge determines (authority being granted by the Chief District Court Judge) may be heard consistent with the Order of the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court

IVCs

  1. Continued to be heard as regularly scheduled
  2. Accommodations concerning attendance of medical personnel or Respondent(s) attending via telephone (or otherwise) to be addressed by presiding Judge with input from Public Defender

TRUANCY

Continued for at least 30 days


Original Memos:

COVID-19 Press Release

Memo COVID-19 Family Court 3.13.2020