Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced today that North Carolina Courts will postpone non-essential, in-person court proceedings for 30 days, beginning Monday, December 14.
“In light of the recent surge of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and in our courts, this pause is necessary to protect the health and safety of our court personnel and the public,” said Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. “Throughout the pandemic, we have moved an unprecedented amount of court work online, including hearings. Those efforts will allow us to limit in-person proceedings for the next few weeks while making sure our courts stay available to serve the public.”
In recent weeks, the number of North Carolina counties categorized as “red” or “orange” by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has more than doubled. More than 80 counties are experiencing substantial or critical community spread of COVID-19. This recent surge in COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations has strained court operations. Since the onset of the pandemic, Judicial Branch officials and employees have reported 291 confirmed positive cases, and over half of North Carolina’s county courthouses have been partially or completely closed due to COVID-19. Eleven of the courthouse closures have occurred in this week alone.
Community spread of COVID-19 is expected to peak through the winter, and it is imperative that court operations remain as limited as possible through the next 30 days. Fortunately, court operations are typically reduced through the end of the calendar year even under normal conditions. With few jury trials scheduled and courts conducting many proceedings remotely, the impact on court dockets should me minimal.
“I am gravely concerned with the recent surge in positive cases, but with this new directive, I am confident that potential exposures will be significantly reduced if we work together to adhere to health and safety guidelines,” said the Chief Justice.
The Chief Justice is expected to enter an order in the coming days to renew existing Emergency Directives and implement the Emergency Directive announced today.
In addition to today’s announcement, Chief Justice Beasley called a meeting of the Judicial Branch COVID-19 Task Force to discuss emergency directives and policy changes related to the COVID-19 health emergency. The Task Force will meet from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. on December 15, 2020. The media and the public are invited to attend the online meeting via Webex.
To view a list of previous orders from the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court of North Carolina, please visit the continuously updated Coronavirus (COVID-19) announcement page. The public is encouraged to visit NCcourts.gov to find answers to frequently asked questions before calling the local courthouse. Announcements from local counties about changes to court operations can be found on the county page as well as the closings and advisories page. The public may also visit the Judicial Branch Facebook page and Twitter account to access information related to the coronavirus health concern.