NC Courts on hold for 30 days

Published 6:28 pm Friday, March 13, 2020

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RALEIGH – Chief Justice Cheri Beasley of the North Carolina Supreme Court held a press conference Friday morning to announce the court system’s response to the growing concerns over COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus.

“Thousands of people enter our courthouses every day, most often because they have been summoned to be there and will risk legal consequences if they do not appear,” said Beasley, speaking via Facebook Live. “While the work of our courts must continue, my first priority is the health and safety of the public we serve and the employees who provide those services in our courthouses.”

“We must be proactive,” she emphasized.

In order to focus on public health, Beasley ordered that most district and superior court cases be postponed for at least the next 30 days. That order will go into effect Monday, March 16.

“We also want people who are sick or believe they have been exposed to the coronavirus to avoid coming to court,” she continued.

She noted during the press conference that the courts are always open to the public, but “we are strongly encouraging people not to attend unless they’re absolutely needed to be there.”

McKinley Wooten Jr., who serves as Director of the NC Administrative Office of the Courts, spoke during the press conference to note exceptions to the order.

Preliminary proceedings that preserve the right to due process, such as bond hearings and probable cause hearings, will continue to be held. All victims of domestic violence, as well as anyone obtaining emergency relief, will still have access to the court system, and protective orders will still be processed.

Wooten also stated magistrates will continue their duties to issue warrants, as well as the Clerk of Court who handles things like estate administration.

Proceedings that can be conducted remotely can also move forward.

At the local level, he said the senior superior court judge or chief district court judge can decide at their discretion to conduct a proceeding “under conditions that protect the health and safety of all participants.”

Wooten also reiterated the point that people who have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus should stay home. Persons who are supposed to appear in court should contact the clerk of court’s office by telephone or other remote means for more information about what to do if they’re unable to attend.

In response to a question concerning staff members, Wooten said the approximately 7,000 employees who work throughout the state’s judicial system have been encouraged to work remotely when possible, though he acknowledged that isn’t an option for everyone.

He also mentioned that the court system has been going through a technology upgrade since last year, so that if similar incidents occur in the future, they will be better prepared to handle them.

“In the months ahead, the courts will be confronted with a backlog of cases that will need to be handled efficiently and fairly,” Beasley added.

“I’m very confident we have a capable leadership locally and folks who are very willing and committed to making sure this new adjustment works well,” she concluded.

For more information about the situation, Beasley encouraged everyone to visit