Special to Iredell Free News
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley of the N.C. Supreme Court announced Friday that North Carolina courts will postpone non-essential, in-person court proceedings for 30 days, beginning Monday, December 14.
“In light of the recent surge of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and in our courts, this pause is necessary to protect the health and safety of our court personnel and the public,” Beasley said. “Throughout the pandemic, we have moved an unprecedented amount of court work online, including hearings. Those efforts will allow us to limit in-person proceedings for the next few weeks while making sure our courts stay available to serve the public.”
In recent weeks, the number of counties categorized as “red” or “orange” by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services 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 onset of the pandemic, Judicial Branch officials and employees have reported 291 confirmed positive cases, and over half of North Carolina’s county courthouses have been partially or completely closed due to COVID-19.
Community spread of COVID-19 is expected to peak through the winter, and it is imperative that court operations remain as limited as possible through the next 30 days. Fortunately, court operations are typically reduced through the end of the calendar year even under normal conditions. With few jury trials scheduled and courts conducting many proceedings remotely, the impact on court dockets should be minimal.
“I am gravely concerned with the recent surge in positive cases, but with this new directive, I am confident that potential exposures will be significantly reduced if we work together to adhere to health and safety guidelines,” said the chief justice.
Beasley is expected to enter an order in the coming days to renew existing Emergency Directives and implement the Emergency Directive announced today.
Iredell County Courts
Courts in Iredell County will be affected as follows:
♦ Domestic Violence Court will proceed as usual. Parties seeking emergency relief under Chapters 50B and 50C are asked to come to the Clerk’s Office by 9 a.m. to have their request for ex parte relief heard by a judge. If you are the plaintiff or defendant in one of these matters, you should come to court as required. You are encouraged to not allow persons other than necessary witnesses to accompany you to court.
♦ Civil District and Superior Court will limit the number of cases which will be heard. Matters noticed for emergency custody, summary judgment divorces, temporary restraining orders, and other emergency matters will be heard. Other cases and scheduling conferences will be continued until after January 19, 2021. Attorneys may agree to the next date or the case may be removed to be re-noticed by a party after the expiration of the emergency measures ordered by the chief justice.
♦ Criminal District Court sessions will continue to hear cases which affect due process. Cases which will continue as usual include: first appearances, probable cause hearings, preliminary hearings on probation violations, and bond motions. All other cases will be continued to a date after January 19.
♦ All criminal district court will be held at the Statesville location of the Iredell County Hall of Justice, regardless of whether you were previously noticed to appear in Statesville or Mooresville.
♦ Criminal Superior Court will operate on a business as normal schedule for first appearances, bond hearings, and preliminary hearings. All non-custody defendant cases will be continued until on or after January 19. All other custody cases will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
♦ Iredell County Traffic/Administrative Court will not be open to the general public.
♦ Delinquency Court will conduct secure custody hearings, first appearances, and probable cause hearings. All other hearings will be continued until after January 19.
♦ Abuse/Neglect/Dependency Court will conduct secured custody hearings as scheduled. All other matters will be addressed pursuant to the timing requirements of the relevant statutes. The attorneys for the Departments of Social Services will communicate with attorneys to reschedule any non-essential matters. Individuals who are not represented by an attorney should contact the Clerk’s Office or their assigned social workers to determine whether or not they should appear in court.
♦ Child Support Court will conduct hearings only for individuals who are being held in custody. All other cases will be continued and notices will be sent by mail of the new court date.
♦ Special Proceedings such as commitment hearings at Davis Hospital and at Children’s Hope Alliance will be held as scheduled.
♦ Hearings Before the Clerk or Assistant Clerk will be continued until after January 19 except in emergency situations.
♦ Foreclosure Hearings will be continued until after January 19. New notices will be sent by mail.
♦ Small Claims Court will be continued until after January 19.
General Tips for Lawyers
Please plan to be present when court opens for the day. Courts will be operating on a limited schedule and will not hold matters open for attorneys. If you plan to request a probable cause hearing, please give the Office of the District Attorney ample notice.
General Tips for the Public
If you are a party who is represented by an attorney, please contact your attorney for scheduling information. If you are not represented by an attorney, please contact the Clerk’s Office. If you are a victim or a witness for the state, contact the Office of the District Attorney. Individuals may also visit www.nccourts.gov for continuance dates.