A reminder: Essential, in-person court proceedings only will take place statewide for 30 days, beginning today.
Although operations will scale back, essential judicial functions continue, including emergency hearings for victims of domestic violence and certain hearings for in-jail defendants.
District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch said COVID-19 continues to be a serious concern in the judicial system though there are safety measures in place, such as requiring face masks and practicing social distancing.
Welch and her 42 staff members work across the state’s seven westernmost counties, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Cherokee, Clay, Graham and Swain.
“A few of employees in the 43rd Prosecutorial District have contracted COVID-19, though not necessarily through the court system,” she said. “Others have experienced firsthand exposure.”
Beasley’s decision to pause most court proceedings comes as the number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in the Judicial Branch hits 291 statewide; additionally, 11 counties in the state (including Graham and Swain) were forced last week to close after coronavirus exposure.
Beasley halted all jury trials in March. They resumed on a limited basis in October, in five of the 43rd Prosecutorial District’s counties: Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Cherokee and Clay.
Swain and Graham are scheduled to resume jury trials in the new year, the weeks of Jan. 11 and March 1, respectively.
Beasley made her decision, she said, “out of concern for the safety of court personnel and the public.
“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.”
Some traffic tickets and other infractions or citations can be handled online, as can some court filings, at online services.nccourts.org. Only North Carolina residents, not out-of-state residents, can use the service at this time.