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Beasley Continues State Court System COVID-19 Response

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RALEIGH – Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order Wednesday extending emergency directives in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health precautions remain in place as the court system continues to increase operations.

Many court hearings continue to be handled remotely using teleconferencing tools, and the public is encouraged to conduct as much business as possible online. Some matters, like traffic tickets, can be handled completely online without coming to court, and some court filings can be prepared online with the court system’s new Guide and File service.

Wednesday’s order also allows jury trials to resume in districts with an approved Jury Trial Resumption Plan. Beasley had previously required senior resident superior court judges to collaborate with other local officials to plan for the safe resumption of jury trials. The plans must provide for social distancing, mask wearing, daily screening, and other public health measures.

“I extend my deepest thanks to our elected officials all across North Carolina who have worked so hard to carefully craft these plans, taking every necessary precaution so that we can resume jury trials as safely as possible,” Beasley said. “I want to reassure the public and all potential jurors that their safety will be our top priority.”

A brief summary of the extended emergency directives are as follows:

Emergency Directive 2 – Clerks of superior court are required post a notice at the entrance to every court facility in their county directing that any person who has likely been exposed to COVID-19 should not enter the courthouse.

Emergency Directive 3 – Hearings and other court proceedings can be conducted remotely using audio or video conferencing.

Emergency Directive 4 – Courthouse access should be restricted to those who have business to conduct in the building.

Emergency Directive 5 – Allows for documents to be filed and sworn statements to be given without a notary.

Emergency Directive 8 – Magistrates must continue to perform marriages, although hours may be restricted and appointments may be required.

Emergency Directive 9 – Judicial officials should ensure compliance with social distancing and other public health guidance.

Emergency Directive 10 – No jury trials shall be conducted unless the Jury Trial Resumption Plan has been approved and entered as a local administrative order.

Emergency Directive 11 – Each senior resident superior court judges is required to serve as or designate a COVID-19 coordinator.

Emergency Directive 12 – Courts are required to enact specified public health precautions to protect against the transmission of COVID-19.

Emergency Directive 13 – COVID-19 coordinators must ensure that social distancing can be observed during all scheduled sessions of court and must make face coverings available to all Judicial Branch personnel assigned to courtrooms.

Emergency Directive 14 – Directs clerks of court to ensure court filings are accepted and that public records are accessible.

Emergency Directive 15 – Encourages court filing by mail and deems documents timely filed if they are received by mail within five business days of the due date.

Emergency Directive 18 – Landlords must file an affidavit confirming compliance with the Federal CARES Act in any residential eviction for nonpayment of rent.

Emergency Directive 20 – Despite the time limit in G.S. 42-28, allows additional time for clerks of superior court to schedule summary ejectment proceedings.

Emergency Directive 21 – With limited exceptions, requires a face covering to be worn by everyone entering a court facility.

Emergency Directive 22 – Provides for the submission and approval of jury trial resumption plans.