The Governor issued Executive Order No. 119 on Friday, which orders the closure of many Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Driver License Offices, the postponement of certain DMV hearings, and the suspension of road tests for newly licensed drivers. Today, the Governor issued Executive Order No. 120, which prohibits mass gatherings of more than 50 people, orders the closure of entertainment facilities and personal care and grooming businesses, and extends the closure of public schools through May 15, 2020.
Like everyone else, our work at the School of Government has been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have written, and will continue to write, about executive orders from the Governor, directives from the Chief Justice, and other pandemic-related issues. But, like many of you, our regular nonpandemic-related work continues. The appellate courts continue to decide cases, and questions about how those cases apply to ongoing litigation still arise.
We usually discuss recent case law with criminal law practitioners at conferences held around the state. Right now, those aren’t happening. For those of you who are craving a bit of the regular fare, we are offering a special Friday feature. Jamie Markham, Jonathan Holbrook, and I will host an online forum this Friday, March 27, 2020, at 1 p.m. to talk about recent criminal law decisions by our appellate courts. Read on for instructions on how you can tune in to our hour-long program.
Executive Order 118. Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 118 on Tuesday, directing bars to close and restricting restaurants to selling food only for carry-out, drive through, delivery, and onsite consumption in outdoor seating areas, subject to mass gathering seating restrictions. Restaurants are broadly defined to include permitted food establishments, cafeterias, food halls, dining halls, food kiosks at airports and shopping centers or educational institutions, food courts, and private or members-only clubs where food and beverages may be consumed on premises.
The order does not affect the sale or distribution of prepared food by grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations, or charitable food distribution sites. It does, however, bar sit-down food or beverage services within those facilities.
Note: The same day this order was issued, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) entered an Order of Abatement of Imminent Hazard that restricted restaurants to carry-out, drive-through, and delivery. The abatement order did not permit onsite consumption in outdoor eating areas. As explained in this frequently asked questions document, restaurants thus were required by the DHHS order to close all seating areas.
Legal authority. During a state of emergency, the Governor may impose by declaration certain prohibitions in the emergency area. G.S. 166A-19.30(c). The Governor has such authority if he or she determines that local control is insufficient to protect lives or property because, for example, the emergency crosses jurisdictional boundaries and local measures are conflicting or uncoordinated in a way that severely hampers protection efforts. Id. The Governor also may take such action when the scale of the emergency exceeds the capabilities of local authorities to cope with it. Id.
When the Governor acts pursuant to this authority, he or she may impose any of the types of prohibitions that local governments may impose under G.S. 166A-19.31. Among those types of prohibitions are prohibiting or restricting the operation of business establishments and other places to or from which people may travel or at which they may congregate. G.S. 166A-19.31(c)(2).
As with Executive Order 117, the Governor has directed that the provisions of Executive Order 118 be enforced by state and local law enforcement officers. Violation of such an order is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Extension of deadlines. Earlier today, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley entered an order extending filing deadlines and limitations periods in certain cases. The Chief Justice entered this order pursuant to G.S. 7A-39(b)(1), which permits her to extend deadlines and limitations periods upon a determination that catastrophic conditions exist or have existed in one or more counties of the state.
Today’s order provides that any pleading, motion, notice, or other document or paper that was or is due to be filed in any county on or after March 16, 2020 and before the close of business on April 17, 2020 in a civil action, criminal action, estates, or special proceeding is timely filed if filed before the close of business on April 17, 2020.
The Chief Justice further ordered that all other acts that were or will be due to be done in any county on or after March 16, 2020, and before the close of business on April 17, 2020, in civil actions, criminal actions, estates, and special proceedings are timely if done before the close of business on April 17, 2020.
The order does not apply to documents and papers due to be filed or acts due to be done in the appellate courts.
On Friday, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley entered two emergency directives to reduce the spread of infection from COVID-19. On Saturday, Governor Roy Cooper entered an executive order prohibiting mass gatherings and ordering the statewide closure of public schools.
We are delighted to announce that the North Carolina Judicial College has developed a new offering for North Carolina magistrates, premiering this spring, allowing magistrates to obtain certification upon completion of specified Judicial College seminars and general training events. Two types of certification will be offered, one in criminal law and the other in small claims law. The purpose of the certification program is to acknowledge and document the commitment and accomplishments of magistrates who pursue a focused course of study in one or both areas.
Spring is only a few weeks away. Soon preparation will begin for the rites of the season, among them pruning, planting, and, of course, prom.
A few weeks ago, I chaperoned a dance at my son’s high school. (I elected not to tell him that I was chaperoning, so you can imagine his reaction when he saw me there. For more about that, please check out my parenting blog.) When I walked into the gymnasium, I saw tables laden with dozens of bright yellow flashlight-shaped devices. The school had not stockpiled flashlights for gazing into dark corners. Instead, these were portable breath testing instruments awaiting samples of air drawn from the deep lungs of teenagers. Every student seeking admission to the dance was required to submit a breath sample. Only students who registered no alcohol concentration were eligible to attend the dance.
After the dance, someone asked me whether it was lawful for a school to require students to submit to a breath test before admitting them to a school function. My answer? Yes. My reasoning? See below. Continue reading →
The General Assembly clearly was preparing for the future in June 2017 when it enacted regulations governing the operation of fully autonomous vehicles. Just two-and-a-half years later, that future has arrived on North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. There, students, staff and visitors to campus can take a ride with CASSI, a driverless vehicle. Continue reading →
The School of Government and the Conference of District Attorneys co-sponsored Practical Skills for New Prosecutors last week. The five-day course includes 12 hours of Professionalism for New Attorneys requirements, so we spent a lot of time talking about professionalism and ethics. While every attorney should, of course, be familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct, there are five ethics rules that should be at the top of every prosecutor’s list. Continue reading →
North Carolina’s Impaired Driving Task Force held its first quarterly meeting of 2020 a few weeks ago. Bill Naff, program manager for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), spoke at the meeting about strategies to reduce impaired driving fatalities. You might be surprised to hear about one strategy that was near the top of the list: Get every vehicle occupant to buckle up.