As everyone is aware, we are in the midst of a historically turbulent time, as we work our way through a pandemic and reckon with social justice issues in long-overdue fashion. Amid the shifting sands of our current landscape, stakeholders in our local court system (including judges, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the private bar, the Clerk of Court, Probation and local law enforcement) continue to work diligently as we attempt to maintain both progress and safety in the way courthouse operations are conducted.
On March 16, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley of the N.C. Supreme Court issued the first of several emergency directives affecting courts throughout our state. Initially, day-to-day functions of the court were reduced significantly, though certain functions remained constant through what was colloquially (though maybe not entirely accurately) referred to as a “court closure.” During that initial phase, our courts continued to hold first appearances, bond hearings, juvenile matters, involuntary commitments and certain criminal court pleas involving in-custody individuals. Over the last several months, our courts have utilized remote technology to conduct business, such as certain hearings in criminal courts (with all parties’ consent), requests for emergency relief and a wide variety of civil matters, as well as treatment courts (such as Veterans’ Treatment Court, Mental Health Court and Adult Drug Treatment Court), to reduce the number of people at the courthouse but still provide the services upon which our community relies.