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Courts reopen effective June 1

With safety measures in place, the wheels of justice will begin rolling again effective June 1 within the 6B Judicial District (Superior Court) and the 6th Judicial District (District Court) for Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Cy A. Grant, Sr. and Chief District Court Judge Brenda Green Branch jointly signed the order on Wednesday of this week. They acted in accordance with directives and orders from Governor Roy Cooper and Chief Justice Cheri Beasley to establish safety protocols and procedures regarding for the resumption of operations.

Acknowledging that social distancing and other safety measures will likely remain in effect at least in the short term, the following protocols and procedures will be in place locally. The goal of these guidelines is to conduct effective and efficient court sessions and to dispose of as many cases as possible while maintaining the highest state of safety as possible.

At all times, social distancing shall be observed while in the courthouse. Therefore, please remain six (6) feet apart from others.

All persons are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth while inside the courthouse and courtrooms. No face coverings that depict or promote profanity, vulgarity, obscenity, violence or the use of illegal drugs will be allowed.

All persons are strongly encouraged to allow temperature checks by healthcare personnel upon request. Any person seeking entry to the courthouse who presents with a fever or any other symptom associated with COVID-19 may be asked to immediately wait until limited people are on the courthouse premises.

All persons are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the hand sanitizing stations upon entering the courthouse and courtrooms.

Upon entering the courtrooms, sit only in the places that are marked or at the direction of the bailiff or any other authorized court personnel.

If you are not a victim, witness, or defendant, we strongly encourage you to wait outside until you are notified that the case in which you have an interest is being called. Then you may enter the courtroom. Immediately after the case, has been heard, promptly leave the courtroom and exit the courthouse.

All judges, district attorneys, defense attorneys, clerks, security, law enforcement, courthouse maintenance staff and others involved in any court session operating under these guidelines should communicate freely and regularly, both prior to and during sessions, to help the court process move smoothly, efficiently, and safely.

The public is encouraged to sign up for auto alerts for court dates at www.nccourts.gov/services to find out their court dates and also to update their contact information with the Clerks of Superior Court.

“Court is going to look different for a while. Dockets will be smaller. Cases will be heard online. We’re going to have to socially distance in the courthouse,” said Chief Justice Beasley.

Under the orders entered by Chief Justice Beasley on May 21, some deadlines for filings and other required actions have been extended to July 31, to include filing deadlines for criminal matters and filings due pursuant to statutes of limitation or repose.

Filings and actions due in civil matters that had been previously extended are due June 1.

The Chief Justice has also directed Senior Resident Superior Court Judges to ensure that public areas of the courthouse are cleaned throughout the day and that hand sanitizer is provided at every entrance and exit.

She also ordered that no jury trials will be held until August while the court system works to identify alternatives to allow those trials to be safely conducted. Senior Resident Superior Court Judges are also directed to assess local court facilities to determine whether juries can be convened with social distancing. If not, they must secure alternate facilities for jury trials.

The orders also include several measures to limit in-person contact between the public and the staff of local clerk of court offices. Filings by mail are encouraged and clerks may require filings be dropped off rather than submitted face-to-face at a service counter. Access to public records must be provided, but clerks may require appointments and limit hours. To encourage filing by mail, a 5-day grace period will be provided for documents delivered by mail. Clerks must accept filings and provide access to records during business hours and may use a secure, physical drop box for filings, and may require appointments and limit hours for public access.