Coronavirus and court proceedings
The impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, even impacting the long arm of the law. New Hanover County and Pender County Court have recently reopened to in-person hearings after months of virtual continuations and hearings. The reopening comes along with some strict guidelines to help keep people safe and healthy.
In a release sent to defense attorneys in the counties, cases are addressed on a strict schedule, organized by the defense attorneys’ last name. To limit the number of people in the courtrooms at any given time, defense attorneys whose last name starts with an A-K are scheduled to be in court at 9 a.m. Those with the last name beginning with L-Z should arrive at 11 a.m. Defendants representing themselves or yet to be assigned council should be in court starting at 2 p.m. Defense attorneys are responsible for letting their clients know of their scheduled time in court.
Those who enter the courthouse will notice changes to room capacities and social distancing reminders posted throughout the building. Cases will only be brought into a courtroom if there is action to be taken on the case.
The changes implemented specifically apply to criminal court only. Technology has helped dramatically during the pandemic and will continue to be utilized. Video conferences, virtual courts, witnesses on standby, and electronic submission of forms will continue to take place despite courtrooms reopening.
The traffic court is suspended until further notice. Other counties are experimenting with virtual traffic court, which New Hanover and Pender counties are considering. Traffic tickets may be paid online until this action is taken.
New Hanover and Pender counties District Attorney Ben David says the changes to business as usual in response to COVID-19 are being implemented to keep everyone who enters the courthouse safe while finding justice for those who have been waiting on operations to reopen.
To find out when you are expected in court, click here.