AN ACT TO DIRECT THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS TO DEVELOP A CODE OF CONDUCT FOR ALL MAGISTRATES; TO GIVE AUTHORITY FOR CHIEF DISTRICT COURT JUDGES TO DISCIPLINE MAGISTRATES; TO ALLOW FOR MAGISTRATES TO BE ASSIGNED TO TEMPORARY DUTY IN ANOTHER COUNTY; AND TO REQUIRE CHIEF DISTRICT COURT JUDGES OF EACH COUNTY TO APPOINT A CHIEF MAGISTRATE, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE NORTH CAROLINA COURTS COMMISSION.
Directs the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to develop a Code of Conduct for magistrates by July 1, 2020, providing guidance to magistrates regarding standards of professional conduct and timeliness, required duties and responsibilities, methods for ethical decision making, and any other information AOC deems relevant.
Amends GS 7A-146, requiring chief district court judges to designate a chief magistrate in each county to serve an indefinite term at the judge’s pleasure with the derivative authority assigned by the chief district court judge, as specified (currently, chief district court judges are permitted to appoint a chief magistrate of a county). Makes conforming and clarifying changes. Further amends the statue to allow chief district court judges to assign magistrates to temporary duty within the district outside the county of their residence, no longer limiting it to emergency situations. Adds to the duties of chief district court judges investigating complaints against magistrates, authorizing the chief district court judge, upon investigation and written findings of misconduct, to issue a letter of caution, written reprimand, or suspension without pay for no longer than 10 days within one period.
Amends GS 7A-171, changing the term of office for magistrates to terms beginning on the first day of February of the even-numbered year after appointment (was, first day of January of the odd-numbered year). Makes conforming changes to the provisions concerning the appointment of magistrates. Effective December 1, 2019.
Amends GS 7A-173 concerning magistrate suspension, removal and reinstatement, adding a clarifying provision limiting the statute’s scope to suspensions pending removal from office and excluding from its scope disciplinary suspension pursuant to GS 7A-146, as amended. Effective December 1, 2019, and applies to all magistrates appointed on or after January 1, 2020.
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