UPDATE-Order Concerning Court Operations For April 6-May 25 Criminal Sessions

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
IN THE GENERAL COURT OF JUSTICE SUPERIOR COURT DIVISION

COUNTY OF BUNCOMBE

IN THE MATTER OF THE OPERATION OF THE SUPERIOR COURT DIVISION IN JUDICIAL DISTRICT 28

ORDER CONCERNING COURT OPERATIONS FOR THE April 6th through May 25, 2020 CRIMINAL SESSIONS

This matter came on before Alan Z. Thornburg, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, in the exercise of the Court’s in-chambers jurisdiction.  The undersigned judge makes the following order subject to orders previously entered by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

  1. On March 13, 2020, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley entered an order pursuant to N. C. Gen. Stat. 7A-39(b)(2) determining that catastrophic conditions resulting from a public health threat posed by COVID-19 exist in all counties of this state. That order was updated pursuant to an order issued by the Chief Justice dated March 19, 2020, further extending deadlines.
  2. On March 27, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 121 directing all individuals in the state to stay in their place of residence subject to limited exceptions. North Carolina’s courts are a critical government function and are therefore exempt from the order. Nevertheless, the courts are directed, to the extent practicable, to maintain social distancing requirements, including “facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible.”
  3. Pursuant to the Chief Justice’s most recently updated order of April 3, 2020, all superior court proceedings shall be scheduled or rescheduled for a date no sooner than June 1, 2020.
  4. The Chief Justice’s original order of March 13, 2020, order of March 19, 2020, and order of April 3, 2020, (collectively “orders”) permit proceedings to be held when “the proceeding will be conducted remotely.” Emergency Directive 1, Exception 1.
  5. The Chief Justice’s orders permit proceedings when “the proceeding is necessary to preserve the right of due process of law.” Emergency Directive 1, Exception 2.
  6. The Chief Justice’s orders permit proceedings when “the proceeding is for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief.” Emergency Directive 1, Exception 3.
  7. Finally, the Chief Justice’s orders permit proceedings when the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge “determines that the proceeding can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.” Emergency Directive 1, Exception 4.
  8. Chief Justice Beasley further ordered the Clerk of Superior Court to post notices on the doors at all courthouse entrances directing persons who have likely been exposed to COVID-19 not to enter the courthouse.
  9. The District Attorney will prepare calendars for the each of the weeks of April 6, April 13, April 20, April 27, May 4, May 11, May 18, and May 25, 2020. Some defendants on the calendars will be in custody.
  10. Each weekly session of court must be held for some cases to preserve the right of due process of law and the undersigned Judge believes by implementing certain measures, including scheduling and social distancing, the Court can conduct these proceedings under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.

 

Pursuant to the provisions of the orders entered by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, it is hereby ordered for the purposes of the criminal calendars of April 6, April 13, April 20, April 27, May 4, May 11, May 18, and May 25, 2020, in Buncombe County that:

  1. No trials will be conducted during these sessions of court and no petit jurors will report or be brought to the courthouse.
  2. No calendar call will be held for these sessions of court.
  3. Certain matters involving defendants held in the Buncombe County Jail may be conducted remotely whenever possible with the defendant’s consent.
  4. Criminal motions and pleas, including first appearances and bond hearings, as well as probation matters, will be conducted beginning at 10:00 a.m. on the Monday of each session and continuing throughout the week on a staggered schedule in District Court 1A courtroom for matters given a scheduled time slot by the Assistant District Attorney. Attorneys are directed to contact the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case to schedule a time to appear in court.
  5. The Court has been advised that the District Attorney will consider requests by attorneys to add matters to the published calendar for disposition.
  6. If defendants are physically present in the courtroom or holding area, defendants shall be assigned a place to sit while awaiting their hearing by the courtroom officers so that appropriate social distancing (at least six feet from other individuals including their attorneys) may be maintained.
  7. Court personnel shall maintain appropriate social distancing (at least six feet apart) while at their work stations.
  8. Any other individuals in the courtroom shall maintain appropriate social distancing (at least six feet apart).
  9. Hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and gloves will be provided in the courtroom and shall be utilized by all individuals handling documents.
  10. District Court 1A courtroom used for these sessions of court is sufficiently large to enable social distancing to be effectively used for all participants.
  11. Attorneys for defendants who have matters on the calendars that need to be heard to protect the rights of the defendants should contact the district attorney’s office to coordinate scheduling of these matters.
  12. Continuances will be freely given for reasons related to concerns over the Coronavirus and any such motions to continue shall be communicated to the Assistant District Attorney assigned to that case.
  13. No individual who has been exposed to COVID-19, is otherwise banned from the courthouse by virtue of Chief Justice Beasley’s order or is expressing symptoms consistent with the Coronavirus, shall be required to be present in court and shall not enter the courthouse. Any defendant who meets these requirements shall contact his or her probation officer or attorney to advise them of their exposure and/or banned status prior to the hearing.
  14. Nothing in this Order conflicts with or is inconsistent with the Buncombe County “Declaration of a Local State of Emergency Stay Home – Stay Safe” effective March 26, 2020, 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.
  15. Nothing in this order conflicts with or is inconsistent with Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 121.
  16. This order and its provisions are subject to being amended or superseded.

This the 3rd day of April, 2020.

 

_____________________________________

Alan Z. Thornburg

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge