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When will Courts Reopen?

We would love to use this Blog entry to give you an update as to when courts will reopen, when defendants can face trial or resolve matters, when domestic situations can be worked out or at least litigated before a judge, when property disputes can be settled, damages ordered, and wills and estates clarified and settled and closed.  But, frankly, we just don’t know. What we can say, with some confidence, is that we are close.

North Carolina’s Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has engaged a Task Force (made up of district and superior court judges, DAs, Public Defenders and private attorneys) to handle the soft Court resumption date of June 1, and what that will look like.  The Task Force is working on how calendar backlogs will be caught up, large calendars managed while maintaining relative social distancing in the courthouse, handling of inmates to and from court, document and exhibit handling in the courtroom, and interaction with and between district attorneys, judges, clerks, bailiffs, and attorneys.  Juries are of course one of the most tricky issues to address. The grand jury (juries tasked to determine the existence of probable cause sufficient to indict a felony case) and the petite jury (juries summoned to sit and hear trials and find facts, usually in small stuffy rooms with a single toilet) are by their very nature sequestered bodies. We will keep you posted as soon as the Chief Justice releases the more defined findings and game plan from the Task Force (likely this week). Please understand, our clients in Craven might have a very different situation than our client in Carteret, Pamlico, or Jones—all counties are likely to put their own fingerprint on the Task Force’s recommendations.  Indeed, no two counties have the same physical facilities that are so determinative on how safe distancing will be navigated while the work of the courts is achieved.

Regardless, even now, be mindful of the following: 

  1. If you have matters pending before the court, particularly  of a criminal nature, it is a good time to get a very reasonable result in your case where there will be a priority on moving cases, so make sure your attorney has everything they need to resolve your case;
  2. Check with your attorney before going to their office or the Courthouse, even after June 1—you might not need to go (but check!) and spare yourself and others any risk to keep the curb flat or declining; and,
  3. Our courthouse personnel (be it Judges, bailiffs, clerks, DAs) are on the front lines of human interaction every day, trying to process aspects of your case and thousands of others. So be as respectful and polite as ever. They are putting themselves at risk to keep our society orderly and moving forward. 

Thank you and be safe. 

Tom Wilson

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