Updates from District Attorney Scott Reilly on Covid-19
December 11, 2020
Update for District Court in Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba Counties
Judge Cherry has issued a new Order limiting Court operations in District Court to only essential matters. Please see the new order HERE.
UPDATE FROM THE SUPREME COURT:
New Order from the NC Supreme Court. This press release explains the Order:
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 pandemic began earlier this year, Judicial Branch officials and employees have reported 291 confirmed positive cases, 40 of which have been reported this week alone. Fifty-three counties have reported partial or complete closures of court facilities during the pandemic, some more than once, and 11 counties have reported closures in the past week alone.
Out of concern for the safety of court personnel and the public, the Chief Justice intends to issue an emergency directive postponing non-essential, in-person court proceedings for 30 days, beginning Monday, December 14, 2020. This order will mirror Emergency Directive 1, which was issued on March 13. The same plans and procedures developed to safely manage our courthouses in the spring will apply. It is imperative that court operations remain as limited as possible through the next 30 days.
For most of our courthouses, operations are reduced through the end of the calendar year as many people take leave to observe the holidays. The schedule for jury trials is likely to be light and most courts have the capacity to conduct many proceedings remotely. By holding only truly emergent or essential proceedings in person, we can significantly limit the spread of COVID-19.
In addition, scaling back operations for the next 30 days will give local court officials an opportunity to do much needed planning to ensure that our courts are in the best possible position to protect the health and safety of employees and the public in 2021. We are hopeful that this planning will minimize or avoid the need for additional shutdowns in early 2021 when community spread is expected to be even higher.
October 2, 2020:
The Department of Health and Human Services has released an app to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Go to https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/slowcovidnc to learn more.
For districts with trial resumption plans conforming to Chief Justice Beasley’s previous orders, trials will resume in North Carolina after October 15. We are awaiting word from the Chief Justice’s office to see if the plans submitted by our local judges will be approved, and we are already planning ahead to schedule trials. Due to the time it takes to summon jurors, we hope to begin trying cases to juries before the end of the year.
August 24, 2020:
From the NC SUPREME COURT: Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order today extending and modifying several emergency directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order extends Emergency Directives 2–6 and 8, and modifies and extends Emergency Directives 18 and 22. The order expires on September 22.
“These emergency directives are crucial to ensuring that our court system continues to administer justice while protecting the health and safety of court officials, court personnel, and the public,” said Chief Justice Beasley.
A brief summary of the extended emergency directives are as follows:
- Emergency Directive 2 – Clerks of superior court are required 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.
- Emergency Directive 3 -Hearings and other court proceedings can be conducted remotely using audio or video conferencing.
- Emergency Directive 4 – Courthouse access may be restricted to those who have business to conduct in the building.
- Emergency Directive 5 – Most notary requirements are waived.
- Emergency Directive 6 – Service required by Rule 5 may be made electronically on a party or a party’s attorney
- Emergency Directive 8 – Magistrates must continue to perform marriages, although hours may be restricted and appointments may be required.
- Emergency Directive 18 – Landlords must file an affidavit confirming compliance with the Federal CARES Act in any residential eviction for nonpayment.
- Emergency Directive 22 – Senior resident superior court judges are required to submit plans for the resumption of jury trials no later than September 30.
Read the full emergency directive for more details.
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.
August 15, 2020:
From the NC SUPREME COURT: Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has extended emergency directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These directives postpone jury trials and prescribe social distancing measures. The Chief Justice also extended a directive allowing additional time for clerks of superior court to schedule summary ejectment proceedings.
“These emergency directives have helped mitigate the risk of contracting COVID-19 in our courthouses,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “Today’s order extending the directives for 30 days is needed to help ensure public safety while conducting court business across North Carolina.”
The extended emergency directives are as follows:
- Postpone jury trials for 30 days
- Require that an affidavit be filed in residential evictions to confirm compliance with the federal CARES Act
- Require each senior resident superior court judge to craft a plan for the resumption of jury trials
- Require the public to wear face masks while in public areas of court facilities
- Require a COVID-19 coordinator for each judicial facility
- Prohibit crowded sessions of court where social distancing cannot be observed
- Require COVID-19 coordinators to approve court calendars before they are publicly distributed to ensure social distancing is possible and ensure face coverings are available for court personnel
- Require senior resident superior court judges to ensure public health measures such as cleaning and social distancing are provided in court facilities
- Ensure public access to court records and allows clerks to limit face-to-face interactions when accepting filings
- Encourage filings to be submitted by mail and allow a grace period of five days for filings received by mail
- Allow clerks of superior court additional time to schedule hearings in summary ejectment actions
For a list of 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.
July 16, 2020:
A MESSAGE FROM THE STATE BAR AND NORTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT: Chief Justice Cheri Beasley Issues Emergency Orders Requiring Face Coverings in Courthouses and Planning for the Resumption of Jury Trials
Chief Justice Beasley has issued new emergency directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that require the wearing of face coverings inside county courthouses and planning for the resumption of jury trials.
Jury trials in North Carolina courts will be delayed through at least September. Chief Justice Beasley has directed senior resident superior court judges to develop comprehensive plans for the eventual safe resumption of jury trials in their districts. Each Jury Trial Resumption Plan must ensure that all court operations are in compliance with each of the Chief Justice’s emergency directives and must be informed by the Best Safety Practices distributed by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.
Each Jury Trial Resumption Plan must include:
- A confirmation that each court facility and any alternate facility to be used for court operations is in compliance with each of the Chief Justice’s emergency orders in response to the COVID-19 outbreak;
- A plan for summoning and excusing jurors, which allows for as much of the process to be handled remotely as possible;
- A plan for conducting voir dire with social distancing;
- A plan for conducting trials with social distancing in the courtroom for all court participants, including the jury, and in the deliberation room;
- A plan for daily screening of jurors, court personnel, attorneys, witnesses, and parties for COVID-19 exposure or infection;
- A plan for making face coverings available to jurors, court personnel, attorneys, witnesses, and parties;
- A plan for responding in the event that a juror, defendant, attorney, witness, judge, or other courtroom personnel becomes symptomatic, tests positive for COVID-19, or has a known exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 during the trial.
Each Jury Trial Resumption Plan must be approved by the following officials in the county:
- The chief district court judge;
- The clerk of superior court;
- The district attorney;
- The public defender, or a criminal defense attorney chosen by the senior resident superior court judge in districts without a public defender;
- The sheriff; and
- The public health director.
For a list of orders from the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court of North Carolina, please visit the continuously updated Coronavirus (COVID-19) announcement page. Announcements from local counties about changes to court operations can be found on the county’s page as well as the Closings and Advisories page.
May 22, 2020:
My office has continued to work throughout Governor Cooper’s stay-at-home order and phase 1 of reopening. Cases are still being reviewed, and since our grand juries recently began to convene again, we are submitting felony cases for indictment. Today, we enter phase two of reopening our State. Phase two allows hair salons, restaurants, and even public pools to reopen with 50% or limited capacity. Bars, schools, gyms, and playgrounds remain closed (click here for more information and here for FAQs on phase 2). Working from home, wearing facemasks in close quarters, and practicing social distancing are still encouraged to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Every month, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, Cheri Beasley, updates the court system with procedures for running court. Starting June 1, court will start to operate more normally pursuant to Justice Beasley’s latest order. Instead of just essential functions, we will begin to hear cases as usual, but with adjustments to limit public exposure. Part of Justice Beasley order will require that courthouses be marked at six foot intervals inside courtrooms and all areas where lines form, and that public areas of the courthouse be cleaned throughout the day with hand sanitizer provided at every entrance and exit.
No jury trials will be conducted across the state until at least August, and traffic court in our district will be open to local attorneys only until further notice. In our district, we will continue to follow local procedures put out by our judges, which will encourage social distancing and having cases heard in superior court based on scheduled time slots. Our front window will remain closed, but we can still handle most tickets online by clicking here. You may also reach us by phone during normal business hours if you have questions about the status of a case you’re involved in.
May 2, 2020:
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has issued an order to extend the effect of previously issued emergency directives until May 30, 2020. By law, the Chief Justice’s emergency directives expire after 30 days unless renewed. The order also eliminates a consent requirement that had made it difficult for courts to schedule remote hearings using teleconference technology.
Read more here: https://www.nccourts.gov/…/chief-justice-beasley-extends-em…
April 7, 2020:
April 6, 2020:
April 3, 2020:
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has extended her previous order, which limited court to essential matters only, through June 1, 2020. Our office remains open, and we encourage you to call us if you have questions about a case you are involved in. Our front windows in all three counties remain closed, but many of the traffic matters we handle at our front windows can be handled online instead. For more information about Chief Justice Beasley’s order, click here.
March 25, 2020:
Per Governor Cooper’s Executive Order, the entire state of North Carolina has been ordered to stay at home, except essential businesses and personnel. You can read a copy of the order here. For the press release from the governor, which contains additional information, please click here.
As for the court system, each county is handling cases based on the instructions of our presiding judges, however most individuals will be discouraged from coming to court. The DA’s office and clerks offices in each county are accessible by phone, and you may call with questions regarding new court dates and whether you should come to the courthouse.
March 18, 2020:
Catawba County First Appearance Courts scheduled on Monday-March 23rd, Monday-March 30th, Monday-April 6th and Monday-April 13th are now cancelled.For Defendants who are incarcerated, their cases will be heard in Courtroom #10 as needed. ALL other cases currently scheduled on these dates will be continued beyond April 17th, to future First Appearance Court dates as noted on the schedule and will not be continued to Criminal Court sessions scheduled in Courtroom #10. Please contact the clerk’s office to find out your rescheduled court date.
March 17. 2020:
In response to actions taken by North Carolina court officials to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, District Attorney Scott Reilly has implemented temporary measures for the District Attorney’s Office to help protect office staff and the public in Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties.
Effective March 17, 2020:
The District Attorney’s Office will be open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., however, the front window will be closed until further notice. In order for our offices to effectively serve the public, our phone lines will remain open during normal operating hours.
The District Attorney’s staff will be available to cover necessary court proceedings in Superior and District Criminal Courts. While most District and Superior Criminal Court proceedings will be postponed, it is necessary to preserve the right to due process of law. Critical criminal proceedings such as first appearances, probable cause hearings, some bond hearings and some probation violations will be held in Burke, Caldwell and Catawba counties. All other types of cases will be continued beyond April 15, 2020.
If you are the victim in a case scheduled for court in the next 30 days and you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the District Attorney’s Office at the numbers below:
Burke: (828) 433-3210
Caldwell: (828) 759-3510
If you are a Defendant in a criminal court proceeding, it is your responsibility to find out your new court date by visiting www.nccourts.org/services.
The District Attorney’s Office remains committed to the administration of justice as well as to the safety and well-being of our community.