Increased use of Video Appearance Due to COVID-19

In response to the current health threat posed by the coronavirus, the majority of court proceedings throughout the state of North Carolina were placed on pause until June 1, 2020. Courts are operating with reduced capacity at this time and only people with business at the courthouse are permitted to enter. The current operation of county courthouses vary county-by-county. In addition, many hearings can now be conducted online by teleconference. As a result, there was, and will continue to be, an increased use of video appearance due to COVID-19.

Discretion of the Court

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic a variety of Judicial Orders have been issued by the North Carolina Supreme Court affecting the operation of the state judicial branch. As a result, many NC residents have been left wondering what the status of their court proceeding is. The answer to this, while perhaps unsatisfying, is that it depends. Ultimately, it is at the discretion of the judicial official assigned your case as to how and when your proceeding shall be conducted.

In addition, the priority of your case may either allow your matter to heard sooner, or alternatively, it could be heard later if the issue is not pressing. Unfortunately, this lack of clarity is the current reality of the judicial landscape we are dealt in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, amongst this chaos, the attorney’s at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have remained informed and up to date on the operation of the courthouse and the newly implemented judicial proceeding instructions in order to better assist and handle our client’s cases.

Remote Proceedings

As mentioned, the use of video technology to conduct judicial proceedings has become increasingly common. If the judicial official assigned your case wishes to proceed via remote audio and video transmissions, take solace in knowing that there are requirements that must be met for the proceeding to be conducted in such a manner. For example, judicial officials must safeguard the constitutional rights of those persons involved in the proceeding and preserve the integrity of the judicial process. As such:

  1. While consent of the parties is not required to conduct a proceeding that includes remote audio and video transmissions, a party may, for good cause, object to the use of remote audio and video transmissions.
  2. If a criminal defendant’s right to confront witnesses or to be present is implicated by the proceeding that is to be conducted, then the defendant must waive any right to in-person confrontation or presence before remote audio and video transmissions may be used.
  3. If the proceeding is required by law to be conducted in a way that maintains confidentiality, then confidentiality must be maintained notwithstanding the use of remote audio and video transmissions.
  4. If the proceeding is required by law to be recorded, then any remote audio and video transmissions that are used must be recorded.
  5. Each party to a proceeding that includes remote audio and video transmissions must be able to communicate fully and confidentially with his or her attorney if the party is represented by an attorney.

The above judicial safeguard requirements, contained in Emergency Directive 3 of Chief Justice Beasley’s Order, do not extend to proceedings that involve a jury. In addition, they do not apply to proceedings in which the use of remote audio and video transmissions is already permitted by law, those proceedings should continue to be conducted as provided.

You Are not Alone and We Can Help

The current operation of the North Carolina judicial system is confusing and challenging to navigate in the wake of the coronavirus health crisis. If you or someone you know is awaiting the commencement of a judicial proceeding in North Carolina and in need of assistance, contact our experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to receive a case review. Our office has been operating under the current system and has successfully carried out legal representation on behalf of our clients. Our attorneys have, and continue, to be involved in proceedings conducted remotely through the use of video technology. We have also represented clients in the traditional courtroom venue in compliance with the current coronavirus courthouse rules.

Call us at (704) 370-2828 to evaluate your options or fill out our contact form. We can explain how your legal proceeding will likely be conducted amid the current judicial operation system and tailor your legal defense and arguments accordingly. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville, and Monroe.