By Molly Martinson and Bridget Warren

In our first installment of this three-part series, we discussed advice given by the TCAs in Cumberland, Forsyth and Guilford counties.  Now, we turn to the Western part of the state and highlight what the TCAs of Buncombe and Mecklenburg counties want you to know.

Rule No. 5: Know Your Local Rules (Again)

Ok—we know this was Rule No. 1 in the last installation—but it bears repeating because it is the single-most noted mistake made by attorneys. Indeed, both Marc Shimberg, Trial Court Administrator for the 28th Judicial District (Buncombe County), and Meredith Davis, Caseflow Management Administrator for the 26th Judicial District (Mecklenburg County) stated that not reading the local rules is one of the most common mistakes they see attorneys make in their districts. They both stressed that attorneys’ failure to be familiar with the local rules causes a plethora of caseflow issues. For instance, Ms. Davis stated attorneys routinely do not submit their continuance requests in a timely fashion, do not include the necessary information in continuance motions, and do not ensure that motions are placed on a hearing calendar within three days of filing the motion. It is imperative that attorneys practicing in Buncombe County and Mecklenburg County take the time to read the local rules. Your TCA will thank you.

Rule No. 6: Work With Each Other

Additionally, as noted by the Caseflow Management team for the 26th Judicial District, it is helpful if the parties work with one another prior to scheduling motions. Specifically, attorneys should communicate with each other, check the calendars online, and select a mutually convenient hearing day and time before filing the notice of hearing. This small but crucial step will minimize continuance motions and headaches for the administration team. And don’t forget that Mecklenburg County uses an online system to calendar motions, but attorneys must still file a notice of hearing.

Bear in mind, particularly with respect to continuance motions, that although parties filing a consent motion should certainly note the parties’ consent in the motion, consent by all parties does not mean the motion will be granted.

Rule No. 7: Help the TCAs Help You

The TCAs and administrative teams want to provide attorneys with the best service. In order to do that, though, attorneys need to stay in communication with the staff. As Jerry Maguire said, “Help me, help you.” Pamela Escobar, the Community Access and Outreach Administrator for the 26th Judicial District, highlights this quote. “We pride ourselves on building public trust through service, excellence and leadership. If attorneys provide us with timely and detailed information, it helps us help you.” Attorneys can do this by providing detailed information in motions and by alerting the TCA staff or Case Coordinator or Manager if a settlement has been reached. In fact, Local Rule 20 for the 26th Judicial District addresses settlement, and requires attorneys to “notify the Caseflow Management Division within 24 hours of settlement.”

Rule No. 8: Timely File for Secured Leave

As discussed in our first installment, Rule 26 of the General Rules of Practice for the Superior and District Courts details the process for obtaining secured leave. Mr. Shimberg, however, still sees many attorneys not timely filing for secured leave. In fact, it is one of the common mistakes made by attorneys in Buncombe County. Failing to file for secured leave in a timely manner leads to unnecessary delay and more work for the administrative teams. When you file for secured leave, be sure to check the local rules and use the forms required by the county, if any. In Mecklenburg County, attorneys should use Local Form CCF-27. Follow Ms. Escobar’s wise advice and help the administrative team help you by giving them proper notice of your secured leave.

Rule No. 9: Don’t Give the TCAs Case Materials Prior to Filing

Finally, too often, attorneys in Buncombe County fail to follow the proper protocol for filing documents and presenting them to the TCA’s office. Mr. Shimberg said that, repeatedly, attorneys file motions with the TCA’s office before the motions are actually time-stamped by the Clerk’s office. This practice is not allowed. Attorneys should first file their motions with the Clerk’s office, where they will be time-stamped, and then they should present the motions to the TCA’s office.

In our final installment of this three-part series, we will discuss what your TCA wants you to know in the Eastern part of the State.