Local Superior Court Judges update courthouse policies

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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Brenda G. Branch, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge of Judicial District Six-A, and Cy A. Grant, Senior Resident Superior Court Judicial District Six-B, began a meeting process in August of 2022 with District Court Judges W. Turner Stephenson, III, Teresa R. Freeman, Vershenia B. Johnson and staff in anticipation of revising current court policies and developing new policies for both judicial districts.

Based upon these meetings, there has been an ongoing collaboration with other stakeholders for continued court improvement and action plans. These plans became effective in Halifax County on Jan. 1 when Branch began her role as Senior Resident Superior Court Judge for Six-A and Turner Stephenson began his role as Chief District Court Judge for Judicial District Six as well as in Judicial District 6-B.

Judge Grant anticipates continued collaboration with stakeholders in Bertie, Hertford, and Northampton counties for continued court improvements as they will share the elected District Attorney, the Chief District Court Judge along with other District Court Judges in the four counties of Bertie, Halifax, Hertford, and Northampton.

A newly updated Continuance Policy was released on January 1 for the Sixth Judicial District Court Division which includes Bertie, Halifax, Hertford, and Northampton counties. The Court Improvement Team members came together to agree on policy changes for continuances to allow the court cases to flow as smoothly and expeditiously as possible.

Criminal cases shall be disposed of at the earliest opportunity. The District Attorney will have authority to continue cases on the first setting. Only the presiding Judge will have the authority to grant continuances after the 3rd setting.

The Court Improvement Team has requested and received authorization for the Sixth Judicial District to use Emergency Judges to hold extra terms of court. This will allow the district to reduce case backlog for DWI (Driving While Impaired) and misdemeanor cases. Judge Branch signed a Superior Court Order allowing criminal court sessions to be added to civil sessions when the civil sessions end early. Although currently on assignment in Nash County for six months, Branch anticipates presiding in these extra court sessions upon her return to Halifax County.

The District Attorney has secured three additional Assistant District Attorneys to further our efforts to dispose of cases in an effective and efficient manner.

The Court Improvement Team has formulated a revised Administrative Order addressing Courthouse and Courtroom Protocol. The Order addresses courtroom decorum policy for citizens entering the courthouse and the courtrooms. This policy will specify items that are appropriate to bring inside the courthouse and rules for maintaining safety while inside the courthouse and outside on the premises.

Requests will be made to the county to address cleanliness inside and outside of the courthouse.

Branch has requested and secured through the Administrative Office of the Courts, funding for a newly hired employee to research, develop and initiate an Adult Drug Treatment Court. The team will seek county, state and grant funding. If you are interested in this initiative, please contact the Superior Court office.

Copies of these policies may be viewed on the AOC website.