Bill Summary for H 607 (2021-2022)

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Summary date: 

Jun 28 2022

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
House Bill 607 (Public) Filed Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Intro. by McNeill, C. Smith, Greene, Miller.

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Bill summary

Conference report makes the following changes to the 5th edition.

Section 2

Revises the requirement for the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to expunge all dismissed charges, not guilty verdicts, and findings of not responsible that occurred during the period of suspension prescribed by the act that are eligible for automatic expunction under GS 15A-146(a4) within 60 days of the first occurrence of either the repeal or expiration of the act's suspension, to extend the deadline by which AOC must make the the expunctions to within 180 days of the first occurrence of either the repeal or expiration of the act's suspension. 

Section 3

Changes the effective date of the proposed changes to GS 15A-145.5 relating to the the expunction of certain misdemeanors and felonies, making the amendments effective August 1, 2022 (was, July 1, 2022). 

Adds the following new content. 

Section 4

Amends GS 50B-2(c1), which grants authority to the chief district court judge to authorize a magistrate to hear motions for emergency ex parte relief. Requires a magistrate authorized to hear a motion for emergency relief ex parte to also accept for filing a complaint alleging domestic violence and motion for emergency relief ex parte if the office of the clerk is closed, and note thereon the filing date, and issue the summons. Requires the clerk, assistant clerk, or deputy clerk to issue any endorsement or alias and pluries summons. Requires filings accepted and orders entered by the magistrate under the statute to be delivered to the clerk's office for processing as soon as the office is open for business. 

Similarly, amends GS 50C-6(d), which grants chief district court judges authority to designate a judge or magistrate to be reasonably available to issue temporary civil no-contact orders when court is not in session. Requires a magistrate authorized to issue such relief to also accept for filing a complaint for a civil no-contact order and motion for temporary civil no-contact order if the office of the clerk is closed, and note thereon the filing date, and issue the summons. Requires the clerk, assistant clerk, or deputy clerk to issue any endorsement or alias and pluries summons. Requires filings accepted and orders entered by the magistrate under the statute to be delivered to the clerk's office for processing as soon as the office is open for business. 

Effective December 1, 2022. 

Section 5

Amends GS 7A-171.2 to deem eligible for nomination or renomination as a magistrate residents of the state who are either residents of the county for which the magistrate is seeking nomination or renomination or a resident of a county that is contiguous to that county (currently limited to county residents only). Makes conforming changes to the following statutes to reflect a magistrate's county appointment rather than residence: GS 7A-146, GS 7A-171, GS 7A-171.1, GS 7A-173, GS 7A-293, GS 7A-211, GS 7A-211.1, and GS 7A-343. Makes language gender-neutral in GS 7A-173, GS 7A-211, and GS 7A-211.1. Effective October 1, 2022. 

Section 6

Adds to the duties of the chief district court judge prescribed by GS 7A-146 the duty to investigate written complaints against magistrates. Authorizes the chief to discipline a magistrate pursuant to the Rules of Conduct for Magistrates upon investigation and written findings of misconduct in violation of the Rules. Deems written complaints received and records of investigations of complaints as personnel records. Deems the written complaint and the chief's actions on the complaint no longer confidential personnel records upon issuance of a letter of caution, written reprimand, or suspension by the chief. Effective October 1, 2022, and applies to any letter of caution, written reprimand, or suspension issued on or after that date.

Section 7

Increases the number of Court of Appeals judges included as members of the Judicial Standards Commission (Commission) set out in GS 7A-375 from one to two, thereby increasing the Commission's membership by one. Requires the Court of Appeals judges to act as the Commission's chair and vice-chair (was, Court of Appeals judge acted as chair). 

Section 8

Amends GS 7A-47.3 to require the senior resident superior court judge to designate a specific judge, resident or assigned to the district, to preside over all proceedings that occur 150 days after filing of medical malpractice actions under GS 90-21.11(2). Applies to actions filed on or after August 1, 2022. 

Section 9

Repeals GS 7A-109(e), which requires the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to report to a specified NCGA committee on contracts regarding electronic records and records processing for records of clerks of superior court; and GS 7A-346.2(a), which requires AOC and the Office of Indigent Defense to report to the specified NCGA committee chairs on contracts entered into with local governments for the provision of the services of assistant district attorneys, assistant public defenders, judicial secretaries, and employees in the office of the clerk of superior court.

Section 10

Regarding applications for jury excusals or exemptions, and notifications of their disposition, replaces trial court administrators as points of application and notice under GS 9-6, GS 9-6.1, and GS 9-7.1, as may be assigned under law, to instead refer to judicial support staff. Further amends GS 9-6 to make language gender-neutral. Further amends GS 9-6.1 by making a technical correction. Further amends GS 9-7.1 by defining judicial support staff for the purposes of the Article to mean employees of the Judicial Branch who provide case management and administrative support under the authority of a judge, including court assistants, court coordinators, court managers, and court administrators; excludes employees of the Clerk of Superior Court.

Section 11

Revises the sunset of Section 11, SL 2021-47, which authorizes the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to expand the active list of emergency superior court judges to up to 25 emergency superior court judges, and expands the grounds for which the Chief Justice may assign emergency judges to hold regular or special sessions of court to include addressing case management issues created by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Extends the sunset from July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023.

Section 12

Makes a technical correction to GS 15A-151(a), eliminating specific cross-references to certain expunction statutes in subdivisions (4) through (6), as amended by Section 2, SL 2020-35, and instead adopts the more broad cross reference to expunctions under the GS Chapter, provided in later SL 2021-107, Section 6. Applies retroactively to requests for disclosure of expunctions made on or after October 1, 2021. 

Section 13

Makes a technical change to Section 18(o), SL 2021-138, which requires district attorneys (DAs) or the Attorney General (AG) to determine whether individuals included in the subject class, meaning those subject to mandatory lifetime satellite-based monitoring based solely on their status as a statutorily defined recidivist who have completed their prison sentences and are no longer supervised by the State through probation, parole, or post-release supervision, meet any requirement to enroll in a satellite-based monitoring program other than being a recidivist. Regarding authority for DAs or the AG to petition for a judge to determine if the subject individual meets the criteria for satellite-based monitoring consistent with GS 14-208.40A, adds language to include any amendments to that statute by SL 2021-182.

Section 14

Amends GS 20-135.2A(e), which provides for fees and court costs associated with seat belt infractions by drivers and front passengers, to eliminate language that required court costs to be used to support the General Court of Justice and remitted to the State Treasurer, as the subsection's current language provides for other court cost fees, including law enforcement training and certification, and additional fees were enacted in Section 8.3, SL 2022-6, that become effective July 1, 2022, including county fees and fees to support supplemental pension benefits of sheriffs. 

Section 15

Regarding the authority of a clerk of superior court or magistrate to conduct a first appearance under GS 15A-601, as amended, when a district court judge is not available within 72 hours after the defendant is taken into custody, specifies that, for the limited purpose of conducting the first appearance, the clerk or the magistrate is to proceed as a district court judge would and have the same authority that a district court judge has at a first appearance (previously, did not specify that the clerk or magistrate has the authority of a judge when conducting a first appearance).

Amends GS 15A-604 to require a district court judge to determine whether each charge in a criminal process or magistrate order is a misdemeanor offense within the original jurisdiction of the court, alternatively to the existing requirements to determine if each charge is a criminal offense within the original jurisdiction of the superior court. Makes conforming changes regarding notice to prosecutors for a process or order that fails to charge either such offense. 

Amends GS 15A-606 to limit the scope of the probable-cause hearing requirements to cases where defendants are charged with an offense within the original jurisdiction of the superior court. Makes language gender-neutral.

Section 16

Enacts GS 7A-49.5(e) to authorize the Supreme Court to require that in all cases in which the seal of any court or judicial office is required by law to be affixed to any paper issuing from a court or office, to include as a "seal" an impression of the seal, made upon the paper alone, an impression made by means of a wafer or of wax affixed thereto, or an electronic image adopted as the official seal affixed thereto. 

Amends GS 15-189, regarding pronounced death sentences, to require judges to make the pronouncement in writing to be filed in the record (was, papers) of the case. Makes language gender-neutral; makes technical and clarifying changes.

Amends GS 15-192, regarding certification of an execution, to require wardens to file certifications with the clerk to be filed with the record (was, papers) of the case. Makes technical and clarifying changes.

Amends GS 15A-101.1, which provides defined terms that deal with criminal process and procedure in GS Chapters 7A, 15, and 15A. Defines copy to include electronic form (was, limited to paper form), and to establish that a copy of a document is equally authoritative as the original unless expressly provided by law or when authority is vested only in a certified copy. Eliminates electronic signature as a defined term and makes conforming deletions, reflecting the changes to written signatures under GS 12-3. Amends filing as related to electronic documents to eliminate the provision establishing that filing is complete when the document has first been unalterably retained in the electronic records of the office where the document is to be filed. Revises the term issued as it related to electronic forms to no longer require a document that is first created in electronic form to be retained in the Electronic Repository to be issued. No longer explicitly includes an electronic signature in the defined term signature, reflecting the changes to written signatures under GS 12-3. Adds and defines attach or attached to mean physical attachment for paper documents, and for stored electronic documents, storage as a single digital file or in a manner that a user interface for access to the documents displays clearly the logical association between them to the exclusion of unassociated documents. Adds that for documents delivered in electronic form, attached means simultaneous delivery via the same mechanism or medium, with examples set out in a nonexhaustive list. Specifies that it is not necessary that the relationship between documents appear on the face of the documents in order to be deemed attached. 

Amends GS 15A-131 to more generally define pretrial proceedings to include proceedings occurring after the initial appearance and prior to arraignment (removing limiting language referring to first appearance before a magistrate only).

Amends GS 15A-301 regarding criminal process to refer to a signature from the issuing judicial official, rather than the issuing justice, judge, magistrate, or clerk. Regarding the requirement that a district attorney or their designee must approve an arrest warrant, arrest order, criminal summons, or other criminal process issued by a magistrate against a school employee for an offense that occurred while the school employee was discharging their employment duties, eliminates the provision limiting "district attorney" to mean the elected district attorney only. Now requires a district attorney declining this authority to file (was, transmit) a letter with the clerk of superior court and provide a copy of the filed letter to the chief district court judge, who must then appoint magistrates to review any such application for misdemeanor offenses (previously, the district attorney filed the letter with the chief district court judge). 

Amends GS 15A-301.1 to allow for the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to maintain more than one electronic repository for criminal process, collectively referred to as the Electronic Repository. No longer requires that AOC create the repositories, but retains AOC's charge to maintain them. Eliminates reference to electronic signatures required to meet the term's definition in GS 15A-101.1, as repealed by the act. Requires the copy of a process printed for the purpose of service to be served no later than 24 hours after it is printed, with the time, date, and place of service recorded in the Electronic Repository. 

Amends GS 15A-302(d) to eliminate the requirement for an individual to sign a receipt on a citation, and the requirement for officers to certify delivery by signing the receipt that is filed with the clerk for persons that fail to sign. Deems failure of the person cited to accept delivery not to constitute grounds for an arrest or the requirement that they post a bond.

Amends GS 15A-531, which provides definitions for Article 26, relating to bail, to define the address of record of insurance companies, bail agents, and professional bondsmen to be that which is registered with AOC (was, with the clerk of superior court) pursuant to GS 58-71-140, as amended.

Amends GS 15A-537 to require persons effecting a release to file documents (was, papers) pertaining to the release with the clerk.

Amends GS 58-71-140, which requires AOC to establish a statewide Electronic Bondsmen Registry for all licenses requiring registration under the statute, whereby a person can register by maintaining a record of each required license, power of appointment, or power of attorney in the Registry, including those of bondsmen, surety bondsmen, or runners. Requires license information in the Registry for bail bondsmen and insurance companies to be provided to AOC by the Commissioner of Insurance or their designee. Provides authority to execute bail bonds pursuant to the license, power of appointment, or power of attorney upon appearance in the Registry (was, when the bondsman, surety bondsman, or runner has completed registration). Eliminates reference to AOC notifying the Commissioner, who must then notify such licensees, of the Registry. Provides that upon appearance in the Registry, execution of a proposed bond is not otherwise prohibited under GS 15A-544.7(d). 

Makes technical and clarifying changes to GS 15A-744. Makes language gender-neutral. 

Amends GS 15A-832 to require the prosecutor to submit to the court at the sentencing hearing a copy of a form containing the information required in GS 15A-831(c), related to the defendant, and subsection (b) of the statute, relating to a victim's election to receive notices of trial and post-trial proceedings involving the accused, including the victim's election to receive further notices under the Victims' Rights Act, Article 46 (previously, only referred to identifying information under GS 15A-831(c) about a victim's election regarding notices). Requires the clerk and the defendant's custodial agency to maintain the form as a confidential record (previously only explicitly required of the custodial agency). Effective January 1, 2023.

Amends GS 15A-832.1 to require the clerk to forward to the district attorney's office a copy of the victim-identifying information included with a warrant based on the testimony of a complaining witness (previously did not specify copy). Adds a new requirement for the clerk to maintain the clerk's copy of the form as a confidential record. Effective December 1, 2022 (note, there are conflicting effective dates for these provisions; December 1, 2022, and January 1, 2023). 

Amends GS 15A-1340.14(f) and GS 15A-1340.21(c) relating to proof of prior convictions used in structured sentencing, to include by statutory cross-reference the definition of copies set out in GS 15A-101.1, as amended, in the definition given to the term applicable to that subsection. Effective January 1, 2023.

Amends GS 15A-1382, which requires a report of the disposition of the charges to be made to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) on a form supplied by the SBI within 60 days following disposition.  Adds a new subsection to alternatively permit the disposition report to be made by electronic submission from the courts' recordkeeping applications to the SBI in any format mutually agreed upon by the SBI and the AOC.

Amends GS 15A-1382.1, regarding reports of dispositions involving domestic violence or child abuse, to require the judge to indicate on the judgment of conviction (was, on the form reflecting the judgment) that the case involved domestic violence or child abuse. 

Amends GS 20-179.3 to no longer require applications for limited driving privileges made after sentencing to be filed with the clerk in duplicate. 

Sections 17 and 18

Effective January 1, 2023, amends GS 15A-1340.16 and GS 15A-150 to refer to the Department of Public Safety or the Department of Adult Correction, as appropriate. 

Section 19

Amends GS 7A-413 to add new subsection (c), requiring that the Conference of District Attorneys approve all transfers of funds appropriated for the offices of district attorneys prior to the Administrative Office of the Courts completing the transfer.

Section 20

Amends GS 7A-177 to require inclusion of summary ejectment laws in magistrates' annual in-service training. Effective January 1, 2023.

Section 21

Repeals Article 31A, GS Chapter 7A, providing for the membership and duties of the State Judicial Council.

Eliminates the operating expenses of the Judicial Council from the expenses of the Judicial Department under GS 7A-300. Makes technical changes. 

Eliminates the Judicial Council from the entities to which the NC Innocence Inquiry Commission must annually report pursuant to GS 15A-1475.

Section 22

Includes a severability clause.

Changes the act's titles. Adds headings.