Bill Summary for S 303 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

May 15 2024

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
Senate Bill 303 (Public) Filed Monday, March 13, 2023
AN ACT TO MAKE VARIOUS CHANGES AND TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS TO THE LAWS GOVERNING THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS, AND TO AMEND THE STATUTES GOVERNING THE PRACTICE OF LAW BY OUT-OF-STATE ATTORNEYS IN NORTH CAROLINA.
Intro. by Britt, Sanderson, McInnis.

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Bill summary

House committee substitute replaces the 3rd edition in its entirety with the following. 

Section 1

Amends GS 48-9-102(d) (governing clerk’s retention of adoption petition) to specify that the clerk must keep the petition in its files upon returning certain other documents to the parties (currently requires that the clerk keep the original petition in its files). 

Section 2

Removes restriction on filing with the clerk briefs and memoranda provided to the court in GS 1A-1, NC Rule of Civil Procedure (NC Rule) 5(d) (service and filing of pleadings and other papers). 

Section 3

Adds new GS 1-81.2, setting Wake County as the venue for cases designated as mandatory complex business cases by the NC Supreme Court.  Provides for notice and transfer process.  Makes technical and conforming changes to GS 7A-45.4 (designation of complex business cases).  Defines county of origin for purposes of the Notice of Designation under GS 7A-45.4. Excludes execution proceedings under Articles 28 through 32 of GS Chapter 1 from the proceedings in an action that must be before a Business Court Judge once a Notice of Designation has been filed.  Removes reference to specific Rule 2.1 in the General Rules of Practice for the Superior and District Courts (General Rules) in explaining when a case may be designated an exceptional civil case or discretionary complex business case under the General Rules. Effective when the North Carolina Business Court implements the electronic filing system approved by the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). 

Section 4

Removes repealed statutory reference from GS 1A-1, NC Rule 55(b), pertaining to default judgments.

Section 5

Updates recodified statutory reference concerning proof and examination of a witness touching the execution of a will in GS 7A-102(b) to reflect recodified version.   

Section 6

Amends the requirements in GS 28A-25-6 for the alternatives to the small estate requirements for a person to pay a debt owed to a decedent by clarifying that the amount owed cannot exceed $5,000 and the aggregate sum that would come into the clerk’s hands cannot exceed $5,000, except as otherwise provided in GS 90-210.64(d) (concerning payments from the proceeds of a preneed funeral fund). 

Section 7

Amends GS 28A-26-3 (ancillary administration of an estate) to remove requirement that clerk send certain notice to a known duly qualified domiciliary personal representative by registered mail. 

Section 8

Amends the requirements for a petition for a determination of incompetence under GS 35A-1106 to remove reference to repealed statute and to incorporate definition from GS 35B-2 (the definitions provision of the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act). 

Section 9

Removes reference to repealed statute in GS 65-93 (funds to be kept perpetually by the superior court clerk).

Section 10

Amends the posting requirement for name changes under GS 101-2 so that the notice of application is posted in an area designated by the Clerk of the Superior Court for posting notices in the county (was, courthouse door).  Makes a technical change. 

Section 11

Amends the notice provisions of GS 31-32 (filing of a caveat) so that the clerk gives notice by making an entry where the will is recorded (currently clerk gives notice by making an entry upon the page of the will book where the will is recorded). 

Section 12

Adds the clerk of superior court as one of the individuals who may set the conditions of pretrial release under GS 15A-533(h) upon rearrest for a new offense if the new offense is certain violations of GS Chapter 20 (motor vehicle laws). Effective October 1, 2024, and applies to defendants arrested on or after that date. 

Section 13

Adds new Article 5B, “Safe Babies Court,” to GS Chapter 7B. Declares that the court’s purpose is to establish the safe babies court to improve the long-term well-being of parents, children, and families involved in the child welfare court system by providing them with trauma-informed support and services, and to achieve timely permanence, reduce generational trauma, and eliminate maltreatment. Requires AOC to set the criteria and referral process for a juvenile court matter to enroll in safe babies court. Directs that new Article 5B does not confer a right or an expectation of a right of participation in safe babies court to a person within the child welfare court system or alter any requirements related to permanency or hearings or limit the court's authority to conduct a review or permanency planning hearing pursuant to GS 7B-906.1 or any other hearings under this Subchapter. Specifies that a party's participation in safe babies court may be terminated at the discretion of the court. Defines seven terms, including safe babies court (the innovative court program implementing a community engagement and systems change initiative focused on improving how the courts, child welfare agencies, and related child-serving organizations work together to improve and expedite services for young foster children in juvenile actions alleging abuse, neglect, or dependency). Designates AOC director as custodian of the court records. Specifies that the court records are not public records, and gives the AOC director authority to disclose de-identified court records. Provides for a process upon motion to release court records to parties in a juvenile action. Establishes a safe baby coordinators testimonial privilege, subject to a crime/fraud exception. Allows the Guardian Ad Litem program and appointed guardians ad litem to share information at safe babies court meetings as it deems in the best interest of the juvenile. 

Section 14

Permits the Supreme Court to, by rule, hold sessions in any location across the State. Effective when the act becomes law and expires December 1, 2026. 

Section 15

Allows counsel for the respondent and the State in a commitment hearing to receive access to the court file under GS 122C-54 without filing a motion or obtaining a court order. Prevents counsel for the respondent from sharing the petition initiating a proceeding under GS Chapter 122, Article 5, without first obtaining a court order.  Specifies that a judge presiding over a criminal case that initiated the Article 5 proceeding may have access to the file without filing a motion. Specifies that the following persons may have access to a court file of an involuntary commitment proceeding upon request to the clerk’s office: (1) a commitment examiner and their administrative support staff for the purpose of filing subsequent documentation into a court file and (2) a person desiring to petition pursuant to GS 14-409.42 for the purpose of providing complete information in the petition.

Section 16

Specifies that when an affiant seeking involuntary commitment under GS 122C-261 is a commitment examiner filing a petition, the original affidavit and original custody order are not required to be mailed to the clerk and magistrate (currently only states the custody order is not required to be mailed to the clerk and magistrate). Makes technical and conforming changes. 

Section 17

Amends GS 122C-281(d) (concerning involuntary commitment of substance abusers) to provide filing procedures in counties with and without electronic filing systems approved by the AOC Director. Makes technical changes. 

Section 18

Amends GS 14-409.43 (reporting certain firearm disqualifiers to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System [NICS]) to require a petitioner and commitment examiner in a commitment proceeding under GS Chapter 122C, Article 5, to provide NICS with the respondent's Social Security number and driver's license number if known. Allows the court to collect such information. Requires petitioner to provide a respondent’s driver's license number if known in a commitment proceeding under Article 1 of GS Chapter 122C. Allows the court to collect that information and to place that information on a court order declaring the respondent incompetent.

Section 19

Amends GS 7A-171.2 to allow persons with at least eight years of experience as a law enforcement officer to be eligible for nomination as a magistrate. 

Section 20

Removes the liability provisions of GS 1-305 (pertaining to the clerk’s issuance of executions on unsatisfied judgments) for when a clerk does not comply with the requirements of the statute. Makes conforming changes to section title. 

Section 21

Removes provisions directing that the official bond of the clerk is liable for all such sums paid over to the clerk under GS 65-95 (substitution of bank or trust company as trustee in actions pertaining to trust funds for care of cemeteries). Makes conforming changes to section title. 

Section 22

Repeals GS 35A-1238 (concerning clerk’s liability in guardianship proceedings).

Section 23

Repeals repealed GS 45-21.31(e), which concerns the clerk's liability in safekeeping of money. 

Section 24

Changes phrase that the license plate issued to the AOC Director must bear under GS 20-79.4.

Section 25

Prevents attorneys not admitted to the state bar from advertising to provide legal services in this state unless they are authorized to provide the advertised legal services in this state under State or federal law. Specifies that limited admission in a matter falling under GS 84-4.1 is not a defense. Makes a technical correction. Effective December 1, 2024, and applies to offenses committed, and causes of action arising, on or after that date.

Section 26

Amends GS 84-4.1 (limited practice of out-of-state attorneys) as follows.  Defines foreign attorney and law firm. Requires a motion for limited admission to now be on a form approved by the State Supreme Court and also signed by the State attorney of record. Makes technical and conforming changes.  Requires the statement to contain proof of good standing for each state or jurisdiction where the attorney has been admitted to practice and date of admission for each (currently just requires status as a practicing attorney in another state, in addition to other listed information). Requires disclosure of the client’s name on the required statement to accompany the petition as well as a statement for each client the foreign attorney seeks to represent. Provides for required information for corporate clients.  Removes requirement that a foreign attorney’s home state provide comity for limited representation to members of the NC Bar in good standing. Requires the foreign attorney to report any income earned from the matter that is taxable under State law to the NC Department of Revenue.  Prevents a foreign attorney from: (1) being admitted in more than three unrelated cases in any twelve-month period, (2) being admitted in more than three active unrelated cases at any one time, and (3) being admitted if their law firm employs one or more foreign attorneys that (i) have been admitted under the statute in three or more unrelated cases in a twelve-month period or (ii) are currently admitted under the statute in three or more active unrelated cases. Specifies that the statute should not be construed to allow foreign attorneys to advertise to provide legal services in the State that they are not authorized to provide. Effective October 1, 2024, and applies to representation in civil proceedings filed and criminal offenses charged on or after that date.

Section 27

Amends GS 84-28 (attorney discipline and disbarment) to extend its provisions to any attorney offering or providing legal services in the state.  Effective October 1, 2024. 

Makes conforming changes to act's titles.