The North Carolina Judicial Branch’s Response to COVID-19 (including updates from the NCIC and U.S. District Courts)
On March 10, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency in North Carolina in response to the threat posed by COVID-19. Accordingly, Chief Justice Beasley issued an Order on March 13, 2020, and a clarifying memo on March 15, 2020, outlining the Judicial Branch’s response.
The Order states that although the superior and district courts will remain open, emergency directives are in effect to reduce the spread of the infection.
- Local courts must postpone most cases in superior and district court for at least 30 days, unless:
- The proceeding will be conducted remotely;
- The proceeding is necessary to preserve the right to due process of law;
- The proceeding is for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief; or,
- The senior resident superior court judge, chief business court judge or chief district court judge determines that proceeding can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.
- Jury trials already underway are not postponed.
- With the consent of all parties, court-ordered mediation settlement conferences must be held remotely. If all parties do not agree to waive physical appearance, the mediation will be rescheduled.
- All other discovery deadlines are being evaluated and extended on a case by case basis.
- The Order further directs superior and district courts to liberally grant additional accommodations to all who may have business before the courts that are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
On March 19, 2020, Chief Justice Beasley issued an Order extending filing deadlines.
- The order states that documents due to be filed from March 16 to April 17 will be deemed timely filed if received before the close of business on April 17, 2020, and that any actions required to be done during that time can also be postponed until April 17, 2020.
Courthouse closing information may be found here.
Check here for the latest updates from the North Carolina Judicial Branch.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact one of our litigation attorneys.
The North Carolina Industrial Commission
In order to protect public health and safety, and in light of Chief Justice Beasley’s March 13, 2020, Order, the Industrial Commission has instituted the following policies for hearings and mediations, effective immediately and continuing until further notice.
- All parties must appear remotely for mediations conducted prior to April 13, 2020, or, in the alternative, be rescheduled for a date on or after April 13, 2020.
- Effective immediately and continuing until further notice, the NCIC will liberally grant:
- Motions for an extension of time to complete a mediation to allow all mediation participants to safely appear in person at the mediation.
Deputy Commissioner Hearings
- With the exception of hearings on medical motions arising under G.S. §97-25(f), all Deputy Commissioner hearings scheduled to be heard in March or April of 2020 will be continued to be reset on the next available docket, unless the parties are notified otherwise.
- Deputy Commissioner hearings on medical motions arising under G.S. §97-25(f), which are statutorily required to be held within 30 days of the filing of the motion or appeal, will not be continued. The Deputy Commissioner before whom the hearing is scheduled may, however, excuse the parties from appearing at the G.S. §97-25(f) hearing if the parties and the Deputy Commissioner agree that no lay witnesses are needed to decide the case, based on the parties’ stipulated facts and exhibits. If the parties are excused from appearing at the hearing because no lay witnesses are needed, the parties should proceed as usual with obtaining any expert medical testimony needed to close the record.
Full Commission Hearings
- All Full Commission oral arguments will be conducted by conference call. The Full Commission panel chair will provide the parties with a toll-free number and access code to dial into the conference call. Consistent with existing procedure, all oral arguments will continue to be recorded by a court reporter, with the exception of medical motion oral arguments made pursuant to 11 NCAC 23A .0609A(h).
Executive Secretary Hearings
- Consistent with existing procedure, all informal telephonic hearings conducted by the Executive Secretary’s Office will be by conference call.
Check here for the latest updates from the Industrial Commission.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact one of our workers’ compensation attorneys.
The United States District Courts of North Carolina
All United States District Courts in North Carolina remain open for official business; however, recent Standing Orders have restricted visitors and court operations. All three districts in NC have implemented a similar Standing Order restricting access for visitors and those Orders are linked below. The following is a general overview of persons who shall not enter the facilities:
- Persons who have traveled outside of the United States within the last 14 days or in any locale that has been declared in quarantine or is subject to a Level 3 Travel Health Notice.
- Persons who reside or have had close contact with someone who has been out of the country or in a state of quarantine in the last 14 days.
- Persons displaying symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath.
- Persons who have been diagnosed with, or have had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; and,
- Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency.
US Eastern District of NC Standing Order re: Restrictions on Visitors to Courthouse
US Middle District of NC Standing Order re: Restrictions on Visitors to Courthouse
US Western District of NC Standing Order re: Restrictions on Visitors to Courthouse
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina
US Eastern District of NC Standing Order re: Operations
All United States Courthouses in the Eastern District of North Carolina will remain open for business, subject to certain limitations. Below are a few highlights from the above Standing Order:
- All civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin on any date from now through May 1, 2020, are continued, to a date to be reset by each presiding judge. All other hearings, conferences, and/or proceedings are subject to the discretion of the individual judge presiding over the proceeding.
- Grand jury matters will proceed pending further order of the Court.
- Individual judges may continue to hold in-person hearings and proceedings, but counsel may seek relief from those matters by appropriate motions. The parties are encouraged to seek to participate in hearings and proceedings by telephone or video as appropriate.
- Any events involving the Court that are not case-specific, including, but not limited to, continuing legal education courses, public tours, and public administration of oaths to attorneys which are scheduled to occur between March 18, 2020, and May 1, 2020, are hereby cancelled and will be rescheduled as appropriate.
- Many employees, including some of chambers staff, will be teleworking, but they are accessible by phone. Electronic filings may continue to be made through the CM/ECF system. Intake counters remain open for paper filing, pending further order of the Court or as otherwise directed by a presiding judge in a United States Courthouse.
The United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina
US Middle District of NC Standing Order re: Operations
All United States Courthouses in the Middle District of North Carolina will remain open for business, subject to certain limitations. Below are a few highlights from the above Standing Order:
- All deadlines in all cases are not extended and remain in effect, unless specifically addressed in this Standing Order 13 or by specific order of the assigned Judge.
- Many Clerks’ Office staff will be working remotely. All litigants are urged to utilize the court’s electronic filing (CM/ECF) system wherever possible. To the extent possible, especially in civil cases, Judges may be holding hearings and conferences telephonically.
- All Civil Jury Trials in the Middle District of North Carolina scheduled to begin before April 16, 2020, are continued and postponed pending further order of the Court or the assigned Judge.
- The Grand Jury proceedings scheduled for March 2020 are cancelled.
- Effective immediately, all Court naturalization ceremonies in the Middle District of North Carolina scheduled to begin before April 16, 2020, are continued and postponed, pending further order of the Court.
The United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina
US Western District of NC General Directive re: Operations
All United States Courthouses in the Western District of North Carolina will remain open for business, subject to certain limitations. Below are a few highlights from the above General Directive:
- All tours, educational visits, and all non-court public events are suspended immediately.
- Attorneys should presume all court hearings are going forward as scheduled unless they receive an electronic notice form the court cancelling their hearing. Attorneys should contact the courtroom deputy if they suspect they or their client are ill and should not attend the hearing.
- Judges will stagger their court hearings as much has possible to minimize the number of people coming into the courthouses.
- Settlement conferences and other non-evidentiary proceedings are to be conducted by telephone or Skype.
- All employees are to maximize the telework policy.
- All court hearings are to be held in the largest courtroom available.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact one of our litigation attorneys.
This update provides general information and does not provide tailored legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship.