North Carolina’s court system continues to work on plans for phasing back to full operations. While many court operations have been limited since March, courthouses remain open and are taking proactive steps to protect the public and court personnel and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley has issued several orders to reduce the number of people required to enter courthouses. Those orders directed that many court proceedings, particularly in high-volume courts, be postponed until June 1, delayed filing and payment deadlines, and allowed for greater and more flexible use of technology so that cases can be handled remotely. The Chief Justice’s emergency directives, which expire by law every 30 days, were renewed on Friday through the month of May.
The emergency directives have broadened the court system’s ability to use audio and video transmissions for court proceedings, and judges across the state have acted swiftly to begin conducting hearings remotely.
“It is vitally important that the public have confidence that our courts are open and available to assist them and that we are taking every step we can to keep them safe when they do,” Chief Justice Beasley said. “We must also ensure the safety of our frontline court personnel by postponing less-urgent matters, avoiding high-volume court sessions, and shifting as much work as possible online.”
Online resources are available to process court cases safely and help reduce the risk of exposure for both courthouse staff and the public. Many citations can be handled through the court system’s online services and anyone with a pending matter can sign-up to receive automated text or email reminders about upcoming court dates.
As work to develop plans for ramping up operations continues, the Chief Justice is relying on a newly created Judicial Branch COVID-19 Task Force for recommendations. This task force, comprised of elected judges, clerks, and district attorneys, as well as other court personnel and attorneys in private practice, will identify appropriate metrics to be used in returning courts to full operation.
The members of the task force met on Friday and will meet again tomorrow as they work to develop plans for the expansion of court operations. They are expected to submit recommendations to the Chief Justice related to the current filing deadline extension by the end of the week. The task force has also been charged with recommending best practices for court sessions to be held while Governor Cooper’s emergency orders remain in effect. Any new deadlines or changes will be made through orders issued by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.
Some courts may be operating with reduced hours or with limited staff and the public is encouraged to visit the NCcourts.gov for more information about local court operations and announcements. The Judicial Branch continuously updates NCcourts.gov with the most current and most accurate information available relating to the North Carolina court system.