Buncombe County discontinued night court in the early 2000s, shifting to a daytime administrative court concept that was able to handle the caseload. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies, and the real answers:

Question: What ever happened to the night court in Buncombe County? Was night court effective? Why don’t we have one? And what do we have to do to get one back to help clear up the court calendar for what’s coming down the pike?

My answer: I guess when former Asheville resident Harry Anderson bit the dust, that was pretty much curtains on the night court in Buncombe County.

Real answer: Buncombe County did indeed have a night court about 20 years ago, but it’s definitely not to be confused with the hit TV show that Anderson starred in, also called “Night Court.” It ran from 1984 to 1992, and Anderson did indeed move to Asheville after the show ended, living a fairly quiet life in Montford until he died in 2018.

But back to the actual night court that ran here.

“In the early 2000s, night court transitioned to what is now administrative court once we had the courtroom space for it,” Jean Marie Christy, clerk of Buncombe County Superior Court, told me via email. “Administrative court is mostly for traffic offenses, but is also a time for other people charged with misdemeanors to get their first appearance.”

Administrative court is also called “drop-in court,” Christy said, “because people are assigned a morning or afternoon session but really can come any time during the day for their court date.”

“Night court required a whole staff to run — clerk, district attorney, sheriff (deputy), judge, magistrate,” Christy said. “And often we would need more than one of each of those.”

While it was popular, it wasn’t terribly efficient.

“When there was night court, sometimes there would be a line around the building while people waited for court,” Christy said. “The transition to admin court allowed for a more efficient and safe way to handle the same cases.”

Christy said she’s not aware of any discussion to bring back night court.

District Attorney Todd Williams also mentioned the staffing issue, saying it would require “a minimum of a judge, a courtroom clerk, a clerk to take payments, an intake probation officer, a courtroom bailiff, and other court security for the building.”

The Buncombe County Judicial Complex, which includes more courtroom and office space, opened in 2013 adjacent to the Buncombe County Courthouse. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle

Williams also suggested reaching out to Chief Judge Calvin Hill. I did but did not hear back. Williams also noted that bailiffs lock the courthouse doors at 5:30 p.m

“That said, the matters that were once handled during later afternoon ‘night court’ sessions, are now handled during a week-long district court administrative setting,” Williams said. “Law enforcement officers who have issued citations or other criminal processes, may assign defendants either a morning or afternoon appearance during this administrative week of court. During these settings, the court system regularly and efficiently handles well over 1,000 traffic matters and other misdemeanor matters.”

Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Aaron Sarver also cited personnel as a major consideration with night court.

It’s also worth noting that the Buncombe County Judicial Complex opened in 2013, adding significantly more courtroom and office space to the original Buncombe County Courthouse.

Question: A couple of weeks ago, we were getting constant phone calls from Mission Hospital, the 828-213-1111 number, for 48 hours, to our landline phone. The calls would beep once and disconnect when answered. Sounds like it’s trying to send a fax, or maybe just a phone snafu. We’ve called the number back and reported the problem to the billing department (which is where the phone maze took us), and eventually reached an HCA information technology rep in Kansas or someplace, who couldn’t fix it. The calls began again at 6 a.m. the following morning and continued — three calls in a row every 10 to 15 minutes, around the clock. Can you help resolve this?

My answer: I would be happy to throw your phone in Lake Julian if that helps.

Real answer: Blame “spoofing.”

“Mission Health’s IT security team investigated this situation and found it was a case of ‘spoofing,’ which is a tactic to make unwanted spam calls using valid numbers to mask what people see on their phone when a call is received,” Mission Health spokesperson Nancy Lindell said via email. “HCA Healthcare continually monitors information security trends and updates the tools to combat spoofing.”

Mission communicated personally with this reader and the situation has been resolved, Lindell said. 

“If patients have blocked any of our numbers or tagged them as spam on their mobile phone, it is advisable that they remove those blocks so that future calls will come through without being marked as spam,” Lindell said.

Ain’t modern technology grand?

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.