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Chief Justice Paul Newby Issues Emergency Directives on COVID-19

Chief Justice Paul Newby issued an order containing emergency directives related to COVID-19. The order replaces the expired order issued on December 14, 2020, and is effective today, January 14, 2021. 

In this new order, Chief Justice Newby has allowed several of the emergency directives in the December 14, 2020, order to expire because they concern matters best decided at the local level. The dangers posed by COVID-19 remain serious, and Chief Justice Newby’s order encourages local judicial officials to adopt appropriate safety precautions in addition to those mandated by the order.

“Today’s order allows local courthouse leadership, who assess the threat of COVID-19 every day, to tailor preventative measures to meet their specific local challenges,” said Chief Justice Newby. “But they are not alone in this fight. I have requested that the Governor prioritize our court personnel in the COVID-19 vaccination schedule so we can fulfill our constitutional ‘open courts’ mandate to provide equal justice to all in a timely manner.” 

The following emergency directives from the December 14, 2020, order have expired:

  • Emergency Directive 1 (Rescheduling in-person proceedings)
  • Emergency Directive 4 (Discouraging court visits and in-person filings)
  • Emergency Directive 9 (Minimizing in-person gatherings)
  • Emergency Directive 10 (Prohibition of jury trials)
  • Emergency Directive 13 (COVID-19 Coordinator calendaring requirements)
  • Emergency Directive 18 (Summary ejectment limitations)
  • Emergency Directive 20 (Extension of time for small claim eviction hearing)
  • Emergency Directive 22 (Jury trial resumption plan)

The following emergency directives from the December 14, 2020, order remain in effect without significant modifications:

  • Emergency Directive 2 (Persons likely exposed to COVID-19 should not enter the courthouse)
  • Emergency Directive 5 (Verification of pleadings and other filings)
  • Emergency Directive 8 (Continued performance of marriage ceremonies)
  • Emergency Directive 12 (COVID-19 prevention measures)
  • Emergency Directive 14 (Submission of filings to Clerk of Court)

The following emergency directives from the December 14, 2020, order remain in effect but have been modified as indicated:

  • Emergency Directive 3 (Remote proceedings)
    • As amended, and with certain exceptions, Emergency Directive 3 clarifies that a party who objects without good cause cannot prevent a court from using remote audio and video transmissions in judicial proceedings.
  • Emergency Directive 11 (COVID-19 Coordinator)
    • As amended, Emergency Directive 11 expressly tasks each COVID-19 Coordinator with ensuring that safety protocols and mandates are followed in court facilities.
  • Emergency Directive 15 (Extension of filing deadlines for mailed filings)
    • As amended, Emergency Directive 15 expressly excludes pleadings and other documents filed in proceedings for forfeiture of bail bonds under Part 2 of Article 26 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes.
  • Emergency Directive 21 (Face coverings in court facilities)
    • As amended, Emergency Directive 21 clarifies that its face-covering mandate does not apply to a person who is complying with a directive from courthouse personnel to remove a face covering. New Emergency Directive 21 expands authority previously granted to judges in jury trials to order jurors or testifying witnesses to remove face coverings so that their facial expressions can be observed. The authority to order the removal of face coverings now extends to presiding judicial officials in any trial or proceeding.