The new order extends many of the emergency directives in Chief Justice Newby’s April 9, 2021 order, though some emergency directives have been discontinued or modified as described below.
The new order notes that, in response to Chief Justice Newby’s request to the Governor, courthouse personnel were designated as “frontline essential workers” and received early access to the COVID-19 vaccine beginning on March 3, 2021. The vaccine is now readily available to all members of the public, and the result is that many aspects of life are moving toward pre-pandemic normal.
In light of improving conditions, but in recognition of the ongoing serious risks posed by COVID-19, the order extends only those emergency directives that are necessary to allow the courts to function with due regard for the safety of the public and Judicial Branch personnel. It also urges senior resident superior court judges to “do whatever they can to resume jury trials without delay” and to “weigh local conditions against the exceedingly negative impacts of further delaying justice.”
The following emergency directives from the April 9, 2021 order will remain in effect and unchanged:
- Emergency Directive 2 (persons likely exposed to COVID-19 should not enter the courthouse)
- Emergency Directive 3 (remote proceedings)
- Emergency Directive 5 (verification of pleadings and other filings)
- Emergency Directive 14: (submission of filings to the clerk of court)
The following emergency directives from the April 9, 2021 order will remain in effect with modifications:
- Emergency Directive 11 (COVID-19 coordinator)
- As amended, this directive expressly allows each senior resident superior court judge, in consultation with local health officials, to ensure that proper safety protocols are being followed. It clarifies that such protocols may include social distancing requirements.
- Emergency Directive 15 (extension of filing deadlines for mailed filings)
- Although this directive has not changed substantively, it now includes a statement that it will not be renewed following the expiration of the new order.
- Emergency Directive 21 (face coverings in court facilities)
- This directive continues to require persons to wear face coverings in the common areas of court facilities. It does not address face coverings in other parts of court facilities, leaving that issue to the informed discretion of local court officials.
The following emergency directives from the April 9, 2021 order do not appear in the new order and will expire on May 9, 2021.
- Emergency Directive 8 (continued performance of marriage ceremonies)
- The performance of marriage ceremonies will no longer be governed by emergency orders.
- Emergency Directive 12 (required COVID-19 prevention measures)
- The new order will not impose a statewide social distancing mandate for court facilities. Instead, decisions about social distancing measures will be left to the informed discretion of local judicial officials as provided in Emergency Directive 11.