During the COVID-19 outbreak, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has exercised her authority under G.S. 7A-39(b)(2) to issue orders imposing 22 emergency directives to ensure the continuing operation of the courts. Such emergency orders expire no later than 30 days from their issuance, though they may be renewed for additional 30-day periods. Because the orders imposing the directives were issued on differing dates, they have expired and have been renewed on differing schedules. The Chief Justice entered the latest renewal order yesterday. This post will review the directives that are currently in place, including those related to the eventual resumption of jury trials.
Emergency Directives 2 – 6, 8. These directives were renewed August 24 and expire September 22.
Directive 2. This directive requires the posting of notices at court facilities directing that any person who has likely been exposed to COVID-19 should not enter the courthouse.
Directive 3. This directive (discussed in more detail here) authorizes judicial officials to conduct proceedings that include remote audio and video transmissions notwithstanding other provisions of law.
Directive 4. This directive provides that attorneys and other persons who do not have business in a courthouse should not enter the courthouse and encourages attorneys to submit filings by mail.
Directive 5. This directive permits verification of pleadings and other documents by affirmation of the subscriber.
Directive 6. This directive permits electronic service on a party or a party’s attorney.
Directive 8. This directive provides that magistrates must continue to perform marriage ceremonies in suitable locations approved by the chief district court judge. The chief district court judge may restrict the hours and times at which marriage ceremonies are conducted.
Emergency Directives 9 -15. These directives were renewed August 15 and expire September 14.
Directive 9. This directive provides that no session of court may be scheduled if doing so would result in members of the public sitting or standing in close proximity in contravention of current public health guidance.
Directive 10. This directive provides that no jury trials may be convened for the next thirty days. Though the directive expires on September 22, the order notes the Chief Justice’s intention to extend the directive through “at least the end of September.”
Directive 11. This directive requires each senior resident superior court judge to serve as or designate a COVID-19 coordinator for each facility in his or her district.
Directive 12. This directive requires each senior resident superior court judge to ensure that certain public health protocols (including the marking of six foot intervals, the establishing of maximum occupancy, and the cleaning of public areas) are followed for each facility in his or her district.
Directive 13. This directive requires the COVID-19 coordinator to ensure that certain public health protocols will be followed before any court calendar is published.
Directive 14. This directive permits clerks to require that filings be submitted using a secure drop box and that access public records be provided by appointment.
Directive 15. This directive encourages attorneys and litigants to submit filings by mail and provides that documents delivered by U.S. mail are deemed timely filed if received within five business days of the due date.
Emergency Directive 18. This directive was renewed August 24 and expire September 22.
Directive 18. This directive provides that no writ of possession may issue in a summary ejectment action unless the magistrate makes certain determinations required by the CARES Act.
Emergency Directive 20-21. These directives were renewed August 15 and expire September 14.
Directive 20. This directive provides that a summons in a summary ejectment action must require the defendant to appear within 30 days (rather than the usual 7 days) of issuance.
Directive 21. This directive requires all persons in a court facility to wear a face covering while they are in common areas and when they are interacting with others.
Emergency Directive 22. This directive was modified and extended on August 24 and expires on September 22.
Directive 22. Directive 22 requires each senior resident superior court judge to craft a plan for the resumption of jury trials in his or her judicial district. If warranted, a chief district court judge may craft a separate plan for the resumption of jury trials in district court. The jury trial resumption plan must be approved by specified officials in the county in which jury trials are to be conducted and must be submitted to the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Chief Justice by September 30. (An earlier version of the directive had required the promulgation of such plans by September 1.)
The Chief Justice and the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts informed judicial branch employees by memorandum yesterday that they should not plan to hold jury trials before November 1.
One last directive. Emergency Directive 7, which postponed the reporting of failures to comply, expires August 28. Nevertheless, because it applied to cases in which the reporting date fell before or on July 31, it no longer has any effect.
In addition, the extension of time in bail bond forfeiture proceedings for motions to set aside and objections to motions to set aside, which may be filed until September 30, remains in effect.