N.C. courts to follow new emergency orders during pandemic

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Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 11:09 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - Courts across North Carolina will be following new emergency orders involving court operations as the state heads into Phase 2 of reopening.

The new orders were announced Thursday morning during a press conference headed by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.

The new orders will again postpone jury trials, extend some filing deadlines and require in-person court operations “to take place with some defined restrictions to ensure safety protocols like social distancing and routine cleaning take place.”

“Court is going to look different for a while. Dockets will be smaller. Cases will be heard online. We’re going to have to socially distance in the courthouse,” Beasley said. “North Carolinians are resilient and resourceful, and we approach our challenges with a spirit of cooperation and innovation that I know will carry us through the challenging days ahead.”

Beasley ordered that “no jury trials will be held until August while the court system works to identify alternatives to allow those trials to be safely conducted."

Jury trials are postponed through at least the end of July. Senior Resident Superior Court Judges are also directed to assess local court facilities to determine whether juries can be convened with social distancing. If not, they must secure alternate facilities for jury trials.

You can find information about specific county operations at NCcourts.gov.

Under the new orders, some deadlines for filings and other required actions have also been extended to July 31:

  • Filing deadlines for criminal matters are extended until July 31.
  • Filings due pursuant to statutes of limitation or repose are extended until July 31.
  • Filings and actions due in civil matters that had been previously extended are due June 1.

Beasley also placed the following restrictions on in-person proceedings in an effort to avoid crowded courtrooms and allow for social distancing:

  • No session of court may be scheduled if it would result in the public being crowded into courtrooms or waiting in close proximity without social distancing.
  • Senior Resident Superior Court Judges are directed to have courtroom seating and all areas where lines form marked with six-foot intervals.
  • They must also ensure that public areas of the courthouse are cleaned throughout the day and that hand sanitizer is provided at every entrance and exit.

In addition, local courts will now be required to have seating and waiting areas “clearly marked in six-foot intervals, establish maximum occupancies for courtrooms, and ensure that hand sanitizer and cleaning services are provided.”

The orders also include several measures to limit in-person contact between the public and the staff at local offices.

Filings by mail are still encouraged, and clerks may require filings be dropped off rather than submitted face-to-face at a service counter. Access to public records must be provided, but “clerks may require appointments and limit hours.”

A 5-day grace period is being provided for documents delivered by mail.

In addition, the Supreme Court of North Carolina entered an order on May 14 that made changes to several rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Court calendars may be published with less advanced notice.
  • Attorneys may designate additional secured leave from court.
  • Judges will receive continuing education credit for online courses.

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