Order of the Chief Justice
ORDER OF THE CHIEF JUSTICEOF THE SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINAOn 13 March 2020, I issued an order with two emergency directives affectingthe North Carolina Judicial Branch in response to the emerging public health threatposed by the COVID-19 outbreak. On 19 March 2020, I issued another orderextending time and periods of limitation for documents and papers due to be filed andacts due to be done in the trial courts.
On 27 March 2020, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 121 directing all individuals in the state to stay in their place of residence subject to limited exceptions. North Carolina’s courts are a critical government function and are therefore exempt from the order. Nevertheless, we are directed, to the extent practicable, to maintain social distancing requirements, including “facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible.”Additional emergency directives under N.C.G.S. § 7A-39(b)(2) are now necessary to reduce the spread of infection and to ensure the continuing operation of essential court functions.Accordingly, I hereby determine and declare under N.C.G.S. § 7A-39(b)(2) that catastrophic conditions resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak have existed andcontinue to exist in all counties of this state.Emergency Directive 1All superior court and district court proceedings, including proceedings beforethe clerks of superior court, must be scheduled or rescheduled for a date no soonerthan 1 June 2020, unless:a. the proceeding will be conducted remotely;b. the proceeding is necessary to preserve the right to due process of law(e.g., a first appearance or bond hearing, the appointment of counsel for anindigent defendant, a probation hearing, a probable cause hearing, etc.);c. the proceeding is for the purpose of obtaining emergency relief (e.g., adomestic violence protection order, temporary restraining order, juvenilecustody order, judicial consent to juvenile medical treatment order, civilcommitment order, etc.); ord. the senior resident superior court judge, chief business court judge, or chiefdistrict court judge determines that the proceeding can be conducted underconditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.The examples provided above are not exhaustive.2This emergency directive does not apply to any proceeding in which a jury hasalready been empaneled.Emergency Directive 2The clerks of superior court shall post a notice at the entrance to every courtfacility in their county directing that any person who has likely been exposed toCOVID-19 should not enter the courthouse. A person who has likely been exposed toCOVID-19 and who has business before the courts shall contact the clerk of superiorcourt’s office by telephone or other remote means, inform court personnel of thenature of his or her business before the court, and receive further instruction. Forpurposes of this order, a person who has likely been exposed to COVID-19 is definedas any person who:a. has travelled internationally within the preceding 14 days;b. is experiencing fever, cough, or shortness of breath;c. has been directed to quarantine, isolate, or self-monitor;d. has a known exposure to COVID-19;e. has been diagnosed with COVID-19; orf. resides with or has been in close contact with any person in theabovementioned categories.Emergency Directive 3Judicial officials throughout the state are hereby authorized to conductproceedings by remote audio and video transmissions, notwithstanding any otherNorth Carolina statutory or regulatory provision.Judicial officials who conduct a remote proceeding pursuant to this directivemust safeguard the constitutional rights of those persons involved in the proceedingand preserve the integrity of the judicial process. To this end:a. A remote proceeding may not be conducted without the consent of eachparty.b. If a criminal defendant’s right to confront witnesses or to be present isimplicated by the proceeding that is to be conducted, then the defendantmust waive any right to in-person confrontation or presence before thatproceeding may be conducted remotely.c. If the proceeding is required by law to be conducted in a way that maintainsconfidentiality, then confidentiality must be maintained in the remoteproceeding.3d. If the proceeding is required by law to be recorded, then the remoteproceeding must be recorded.e. Each party to a remote proceeding must be able to communicate fully andconfidentially with his or her attorney if the party is represented by anattorney.The authorization in this emergency directive does not extend to proceedingsthat involve a jury.Nothing in this emergency directive prevents judicial officials from conductingin-person proceedings consistent with Emergency Directive 1.Emergency Directive 4Attorneys and other persons who do not have business in a courthouse shouldnot enter a courthouse, and those who do have business in a courthouse should notprolong their visit once their business has concluded. Attorneys are stronglyencouraged to submit filings by mail rather than in person.Emergency Directive 5When it is required that any pleading, motion, petition, supporting affidavit,or other document of any kind to be filed in the General Court of Justice be verified,or that an oath be taken, it shall be sufficient if the subscriber affirms the truth ofthe matter to be verified by an affirmation or representation in substantially thefollowing language:“I (we) affirm, under the penalties for perjury, that the foregoingrepresentation(s) is (are) true.(Signed) _______”This emergency directive does not apply to wills to be probated, conveyances ofreal estate, or any document that is not to be filed in the General Court of Justice.Emergency Directive 6Notwithstanding the manner of service described in Rule 5 of the Rules of CivilProcedure, service required by Rule 5 may be made electronically on a party or aparty’s attorney as follows:If the party has consented in writing to service by electronic mail (“email”),then service may be made on the party by email to an address that is either includedin the consent or is otherwise on record with the court in the case. The email must betimestamped before 5:00 P.M. Eastern Time on a regular business day to be4considered served on that day. If the email is timestamped after 5:00 P.M., thenservice will be deemed to have been completed on the next business day.If the attorney has consented in writing to service by email, then service mayalso be made on the attorney by email to an address that is either included in theconsent or is otherwise on record with the court in the case. The email must betimestamped before 5:00 P.M. Eastern Time on a regular business day to beconsidered served on that day. If the email is timestamped after 5:00 P.M., thenservice will be deemed to have been completed on the next business day.If one or more persons are served by email, then the certificate of service shallshow the email address of each person so served.Nothing in this emergency directive is intended to modify electronic service inthe North Carolina Business Court, which continues to be governed by BusinessCourt Rule 3.Emergency Directive 7For all monies owed pursuant to a judgment or order entered by a court priorto 6 April 2020 in a criminal or infraction case with a payment due date on or after6 April 2020 and before or on 1 May 2020, the date by which payment must be madeis hereby extended 90 days. Nonpayment of monetary obligations in such cases shallnot be deemed a willful failure to comply, and the clerks of superior court are directednot to enter or report a failure to comply as a result of nonpayment during the 90-dayextension period.The clerks of superior court also are directed not to enter or report, until afterthe expiration of this order, a failure to comply for a criminal or infraction case witha payment due date before 6 April 2020 where the 40th day following nonpaymentfalls on or after 6 April 2020 and before or on 1 May 2020.If a court enters a judgment or order on or after 6 April 2020 and before or on1 May 2020 in a criminal or infraction case, then the payment due date must be atleast 90 days after the date of entry of the judgment or order, and the installment feeof N.C.G.S. § 7A-304(f) shall not be assessed until after the due date has passed.Monetary obligations owed pursuant to a term of probation which is scheduledto end within 30 days after the date that this order is issued are excluded from theoperation of this emergency directive.
5Expiration of this Emergency Order andGuidance to Judicial System StakeholdersPursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-39(b)(2), the emergency directives contained in thisorder are effective immediately and expire on 1 May 2020.Nevertheless, given the current severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, I fullyexpect to extend these directives for an additional 30-day period. Accordingly, judicialsystem stakeholders should plan for these directives to last through the month of May2020.These emergency directives are crucial to ensuring that our court systemcontinues to administer justice while protecting the health and safety of courtofficials, court personnel, and the public. I encourage all court officials to liberally grant additional accommodations toparties, witnesses, attorneys, and others with business before the courts, as theydeem appropriate.Issued this the 2nd day of April, 2020.
Cheri BeasleyChief JusticeSupreme Court of North Carolina