Half of the adults in North Carolina have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the number of people testing positive for the virus in the state continues to plummet. Fewer than 200 positive cases were identified on the last day for which case counts were reported. Metrics like these signal the waning of a pandemic that has altered the lives of North Carolinians over the past 15 months and that has hampered the operations of state courts. On Friday, Chief Justice Paul Newby issued an order, effective today, extending only two of the dozens of emergency directives that have been issued over the course of the pandemic. Noting that COVID-19 concerns have caused cases to accumulate in the courts, Justice Newby stated that he was extending for 30 days only those directives necessary to dispose of those accumulated cases: Emergency Directive 3 and Emergency Directive 5.
Tag Archives: COVID-19
A week ago, I noted that Chief Justice Paul Newby had renewed several emergency directives, including Emergency Directive 21, which required that persons in a court facility wear a face covering while in common areas of the courthouse. That changed on Friday, following the Centers for Disease Control’s advice that fully vaccinated people can safely resume most indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask. By order issued and effective on Friday, May 14, 2021, Chief Justice Newby eliminated Emergency Directive 21 altogether. Continue reading →
North Carolina Court of Appeals Addresses Availability of Habeas Remedy for Prisoners Affected by COVID-19
Last week, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued its opinion about the availability of state habeas corpus to obtain release from custody by an inmate particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Below is an analysis of the decision prepared by Ian Mance, who has worked on several topics related to COVID-19, available here, with the School of Government’s Public Defense Education group. Continue reading →
More than 50 percent of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 43 percent of NC adults are fully vaccinated. COVID-19 cases have declined precipitously since a January peak of more than 15,000 positive tests on a single day, with daily cases now averaging under 2,000. Governor Roy Cooper has responded to these positive trends by lifting outdoor mask restrictions and increasing mass gathering capacity limits. The Governor has said if these trends continue, he plans to lift mandatory social distancing, capacity, and mass gathering restrictions by June 1.
Courthouse personnel, charged with ensuring that courts remain open and that justice is administered without delay, were designated as frontline essential workers and thus received early access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Many court officials are among the group of fully vaccinated North Carolina adults.
Recognizing these positive trends and the judicial branch’s constitutional obligations, Chief Justice Paul Newby entered an order on Friday, effective today, extending and modifying certain pandemic-related emergency directives, while allowing other directives to expire.
Emergency Directives 2, 3, 5, 11, 14, 15, and 21 remain in place (as modified) for an additional thirty days, expiring on June 6, 2021. Emergency Directive 8 (which allowed a chief district court judge to restrict the hours and times at which magistrate-officiated marriage ceremonies were conducted) and Emergency Directive 12 (which required each senior resident superior court judge to ensure that certain public health protocols, including the marking of six-foot intervals, the establishing of maximum occupancy, and the cleaning of public areas, were followed for each facility in his or her district) were not renewed and expired yesterday.
Chief Justice Paul Newby issued an order on Friday, effective today, extending emergency directives currently in place for an additional thirty days to in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading →
During the COVID-19 pandemic, criminal court systems moved to virtual proceedings to maintain essential court operations while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. To understand more about that transition and the lessons it holds for the future, we surveyed North Carolina trial judges, prosecutors, defenders, and clerks of court about virtual court. Our survey included questions about changes to court proceedings during the pandemic, the benefits of and concerns about virtual court, best practice suggestions for virtual proceedings, support for various virtual proceedings, experiences with using various technology platforms, and other aspects of virtual proceedings. We received responses from 182 people (Figure 1) from all 100 North Carolina counties.
Figure 1. Survey Respondents’ Current Role in the Criminal Justice System
Our full report is available here. In this post we summarize some top line results.
Chief Justice Newby’s latest order extending emergency directives issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic became effective on Saturday. This post reviews the order and the directives therein, which have been extended for 30 days. Continue reading →
Every practicing attorney and judge has by now likely seen the video of the Texas attorney who appeared at a court hearing conducted via Zoom in the form of a fluffy, white kitten. “I’m here live. I’m not a cat,” has emerged as the mantra of the week. The enthusiasm with which the recording has been shared reflects both the ubiquity of web-based hearings and the technological mishaps that can derail them. But technology is not the only thing that can go awry in a remote proceeding. Sometimes the problems are more fundamentally human, arising from behaviors that, were they committed in the courtroom, might lead to a finding of direct criminal contempt. Repeatedly talking over a judge or another litigant, arguing with a judge after having been asked to be quiet, cursing at a judge or another person present, using a racial slur, or appearing in a state of undress are examples. When a person engages in this sort of behavior in a remote proceeding, may the judge summarily punish the act as direct criminal contempt? Or must the judge issue an order to show cause and address the contemptuous behavior in a subsequent proceeding?
On Friday, Chief Justice Paul Newby entered an order extending the time for filing motions to set aside and objections to motions to set aside in bail bond forfeiture proceedings. Any such motion or objection due on or after April 14, 2020 and before or on February 27, 2021 will be timely filed if filed before the close of business on March 1, 2021.
Justice Newby’s January 29 order operates to further extend deadlines that were first extended by Chief Justice Beasley last April and that were re-extended by orders issued in September, November, and December. I thought I’d take a minute this morning to review the statutory procedures affected by these extensions.
Last week, Chief Justice Paul Newby entered an order extending and modifying some of the emergency directives previously imposed by former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. Chief Justice Newby’s order (issued January 13, 2021 and effective January 14, 2021) allowed other emergency directives to expire. This post reviews the latest emergency directives as well as recent leadership changes affecting the courts.