What are all those dates again? And another extension from Justice Beasley

By Jessi Thaller-Moran

I know it is difficult keeping track of all the moving dates and deadlines. For your convenience, here is a chart with all the current extensions. Below the chart is an update about Justice Beasley’s latest order pushing out state trial court proceedings into June.



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COVID-19 Criminal Justice Update (Apr. 1, 2020)

By Daniel Adams 

With coronavirus infections multiplying exponentially around the globe, countries, states, and localities are taking action to slow the spread. This update does not attempt to recount all that has changed since my last post. In particular, I do not catalogue all the state and local stay-at-home orders that have been enacted—though the North Carolina Judicial Branch’s COVID-19 Resource Page appears to have aggregated them all. Rather, I focus just on recent developments involving North Carolina state and federal courts and of particular interest to criminal justice practitioners.

[Note: This post was updated on April 3, 2020, as reflected below.]

NC State Courts

As reported earlier, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley previously entered an order extending filing deadlines and certain limitations periods in the trial courts through April 17, 2020. After some initial debate about whether Justice Beasley’s order applied in the Business Court, Chief Business Court Judge Louis Bledsoe answered that question in the affirmative, by order entered May 23. There was no doubt that Justice Beasley’s March 19 order did not apply to filings due in the appellate courts. Late last week, however, Justice Beasley entered another order extending all appellate court deadlines that fall between March 27 and April 30, 2020, for 60 days. The March 27 order also encourages electronic filing and credits back secure-leave scheduled in April and May 2020.

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More Judicial Updates on COVID-19 (Mar. 19, 2020)

By Daniel Adams 

North Carolina’s courts have taken further steps to address the impact of COVID-19 on the court system.

North Carolina Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will not be holding travel sessions in April or May. Cases previously scheduled for April or May may still be heard, at the litigants’ option:


  1. Via WebEx the week of May 4 at a specific date and time set by the Court,
  2. At a later date, or
  3. The matter may be decided on the briefs

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Fight Hunger, Help Others in the COVID-19 Pandemic – Participate in the Legal Feeding Frenzy and Support Your Local Food Bank!

Michele Livingstone

Will Quick

By Michele Livingstone and Will Quick

We are in unprecedented times with COVID-19 (Coronavirus).  It is now more important than ever that we help our neighbors and those who are not as fortunate. I am confident that each of you is doing your part.

Even in the best of times, however, over 1.5 Million North Carolinians struggle with hunger—of those, nearly half a million are children. With public schools and many religious and nonprofit organizations that traditionally serve the food insecure in our communities being closed for indefinite periods, and government leaders calling for social distancing to help limit the spread of Coronavirus, that need is never more pressing than now.

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Judicial Updates on COVID-19

By Daniel Adams 

Criminal Justice Section members should pay close attention to rapidly developing guidance from state and federal courts concerning COVID-19. The most recent guidance is summarized below, and the relevant orders are linked. Please also check with your local courts to track developments affecting you and your clients; as of 11:00 a.m. Monday, March 16, 2020, 16 counties were reporting court closings and/or advisories.


NC State Courts

Chief Justice Beasley entered an order on Friday, March 13 regarding the operation of the North Carolina court system.

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“Murder on Birchleaf Drive: Trial Strategy for True Crime Lovers”

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When Meredith Fisher discovered her sister Michelle’s brutally beaten and lifeless body on the floor of the master bedroom she shared with her husband Jason, a quest for justice began—one that would ultimately last 12 years and end in the murder conviction of Jason Lynn Young in a Wake County courtroom.

The compelling story is told in Murder on Birchleaf Drive by Poyner Spruill lawyer and NCBA member Steven B. Epstein.

The Jason Young murder case is also now the focus of a 3-hour CLE program Epstein will present on January 10 at the N.C. Bar Center titled “Murder on Birchleaf Drive: Trial Strategy for True Crime Lovers.

Click here to access brochure.  Click here to register.

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The Year Ahead, from Your New Criminal Justice Section Chair

By George P. Doyle

When I think of those who came before me, I must say that it is a great honor for me to serve as this year’s Chair of the Criminal Justice Section of the NCBA. Other Officers serving you this year are Vice-Chair Sherri Lawrence, a special Deputy Attorney General in the AG’s Office; Secretary Jennifer Martin, chief assistant District Attorney in Forsyth County; and Treasurer Kathleen Gleason, an assistant Federal Public Defender in the Middle District.

Immediate Past Chair Patrick Weede and Rob Heroy, co-Chairs of the CLE Committee, are already working hard to prepare for our annual meeting/CLE, which will be held on January 24, 2020 at the Bar Center in Cary. The topics will cover areas that impact your practice. The evening before is the Smith/Gilchrist Awards Dinner. I strongly urge you to attend this event. I promise you will leave the evening reminded of our noble calling and re-energized for the work ahead.

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ABCs of Criminal Court CLE Scheduled for March 15

Nuances and complexities abound in criminal and traffic law. The simplest of cases may have unfathomable consequences to your client’s finances, employment opportunities, even their freedom.  A CLE that glosses over the basics is not enough. A CLE that offers an in-depth look at obscure subject matter is not sufficient. Get ahead on your 2019 CLEs by taking the “ABCs of Criminal Court” – the one CLE that elevates both new and experienced attorneys to higher levels of expertise in criminal and traffic law.

Find details and register for the “ABCs of Criminal Court,” scheduled for Friday, March 15 live at the NC Bar Center in Cary and via webcast.

Courts, clients, and opposing counsel all demand a level of competence that requires mastering the details. Time plus an overwhelming plethora of statutes, caselaw, and practice traditions force today’s attorneys to take shortcuts, and perhaps get involved in matters too quickly. No criminal practitioner can easily absorb and remember even the “big picture” of the criminal statutes, let alone the detailed nuances that an individual’s liberty and life demand.

This CLE aims to simplify and present information that has immediate, real-world application. Coupled with the release of  “The ABCs of Criminal Court, Second Edition,” which is provided to each registrant, attorneys will leave with confidence in their ability to navigate misdemeanors, felonies, probation violations, expunctions, DWIs, and traffic tickets.

The new book will appeal to every North Carolina attorney who practices or even dabbles in criminal law. It is a one-stop book, covering all the basics and important details, accessible and essential for both the novice and the expert. Veteran attorneys will be impressed with the up-to-date knowledge, newly sourced in this second edition, and new attorneys will be captivated by the complete, all-in-one reference source so easily found when needed. Thousands of pages could be read and hundreds of dollars could be spent to obtain this same information. The “ABCs of Criminal Court captures all that material, giving you a foundation that will grow your confidence and practice to its full potential.

Register today!





Pretrial Justice and Criminal Case Management Reform

By Robert C. Kemp III

One of the greatest honors in my professional career was serving on the N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice. As a member of the commission, I was assigned to the Committee on Criminal Investigation and Adjudication. Two of the topics we focused on were pretrial justice and criminal case management.

Although various methods of pretrial release exist in North Carolina, a secured bond is the most common form of release for a person charged with a criminal offense. Few defendants can afford to post the bail amount in full. Some defendants utilize bail bondsmen, who charge a percentage of the total bond amount in exchange for obtaining the defendant’s pretrial release. Unfortunately, many defendants cannot afford either option and are forced to remain in jail. Most such defendants are also unable to retain counsel and are instead represented by court-appointed counsel, such as a public defender.

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Chief Justice’s Commission Issues Report With Blueprint For Improving Indigent Defense

By Thomas K. Maher

On Dec. 2, 2016, the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, which was the result of work by Chief Justice Martin, met for the final time. The commission worked through five committees, including the Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee. The Criminal Investigation and Adjudication Committee worked on several subjects, including the age of juvenile jurisdiction, pre-trial release, case management and indigent defense.  The work on indigent defense was done through a subcommittee, which included members with a wide range of experience, including two Chief Public Defenders, an elected District Attorney, a Sheriff, Magistrate, as well as District and Superior Court judges.  Professor Jessica Smith, from the School of Government, served as the reporter, and was instrumental in the production of the final report.

The 51-page report provides an in-depth discussion of the many challenges that any indigent defense system faces. The report also makes specific recommendations for improving North Carolina’s indigent defense system, some of which can be implemented without legislative action, and some of which will require legislation. These recommendations are a long-term blueprint for strengthening indigent defense. All of the recommendations are geared toward achieving a criminal justice system in which the quality of justice does not depend on the wealth of the defendant. The report emphasizes the importance of providing effective assistance of counsel to all who find themselves in the criminal justice system, observing that the cost of not providing effective representation includes not only wrongful convictions, but also excessive pre-trial detention, increased pressure on innocent persons to plead guilty, excessive sentences, and the dramatic collateral consequences that often accompany a criminal conviction. Indeed, the opening paragraph of the report states:

As the United States Supreme Court recently declared: “No one doubts the fundamental character of a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to the ‘Assistance of Counsel.’ ” This right is so critical that the high Court has deemed its wrongful deprivation to constitute “structural” error, affecting the very “framework within which the trial proceeds.” For indigent defendants, this fundamental right to effective assistance of counsel must be provided at state expense. When the system fails to provide this right, it denies indigent defendants justice. That denial has very real consequences for defendants, including excessive pretrial detention, increased pressure on innocent persons to plead guilty, wrongful convictions, and excessive sentences

There is no doubt that indigent defense throughout much of the United States is in a state of crisis, and that North Carolina is beginning to see the impact of lessened resources for indigent defense. The eroding quality of  indigent defense is an issue that concerns not only the usual liberal supporters of providing adequate counsel for those too poor to hire a lawyer, but also conservatives, such as Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries. The bi-partisan recognition of the importance of a healthy indigent defense system should provide hope that positive change is possible.

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