Adverse Weather Overview
The Judicial Branch is separate and independent from the Executive Branch. Local judicial officials and employers are separate and independent from county and municipal government. State and local Judicial Branch officials and employers make all relevant decisions in response to adverse weather and catastrophic conditions. However, local coordination and cooperation with county and municipal government is often appropriate.
These recommendations deal with certain conditions, mostly weather-related, that are beyond the control of court officials, but only to the extent that they raise these questions:
- whether or not to cancel or alter court schedules,
- whether or not to close court offices to the public, and
- whether or not employees should report for work.
These are independent decisions. In a given county, court sessions may be cancelled or altered; yet one or more offices may remain open to the public. Conversely, one or more offices may be closed to the public, yet court sessions may be held, so long as the clerk, district attorney, public defender and sheriff are willing to provide the minimum support personnel necessary to conduct the court's business. Similarly an office may remain open to the public, yet employees may be given the option of not reporting for work. Even if an office is closed to the public, some or all employees may be expected to report for work. In Wake County, local court officials' decisions about whether court sessions will be cancelled, offices closed or employees required to report for work are independent of AOC's decisions for its offices and employees in Wake County.
There is a distinction between weather conditions that are merely adverse, and those that are catastrophic. Adverse weather conditions do not necessarily call for canceling court sessions or closing an office (although they may), but they may call for allowing employees to remain home, using leave time or making up the time later. Catastrophic conditions necessitate canceling court sessions, closing offices and suspending filing deadlines, and call for allowing employees to remain home without using leave.
There is no definition of adverse weather conditions. They include any conditions that might lead a significant number of members of the public or of employees to conclude that it would be unsafe to attempt to come to court or to work.
Under G.S. 7A-39, the Chief Justice determines and declares that catastrophic conditions exist or have existed in one or more counties of the State.
Catastrophic conditions are defined as: "Any set of circumstances that make it impossible or extremely hazardous for judicial officials, employees, parties, witnesses, or other persons with business before the courts to reach a courthouse, or that create a significant risk of physical harm to persons in a courthouse, or that would otherwise convince a reasonable person to avoid traveling to or being in the courthouse, including conditions that may result from hurricane, tornado, flood, snowstorm, ice storm, other severe natural disaster, fire, or riot." G.S. 7A-39.