Control of the Calendar: The North Carolina Prosecutor’s Ace Card

Imagine if you were involved in a civil suit – perhaps your neighbor was suing you for some damage to his property. And imagine that the neighbor as the plaintiff in the suit had the unfettered right to bring the matter before a judge whenever he or she chose. And imagine that the neighbor has the plaintiff had the right to prevent you from getting in front of a judge so that a judge could hear your motions.

In North Carolina, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant decides how to “calendar” – i.e., set the court dates – civil cases.

However, North Carolina is the one of the few states in the country where the prosecutor has unilateral control over the calendaring in criminal cases. This means that the prosecutor gets control over not only when you, as a criminal defendant, appear before a judge, but the prosecutor can in effect manipulate the calendaring process to select which judges get to hear which cases.

Whether or not this is a violation of the 14th Amendment’s due process provision has never been litigated. But at the very least it is a deeply unfair way to design a criminal process because it prejudices the defendant by putting prosecutor in charge of when the defendant can have defense motions heard.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.