Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an order Thursday containing seven emergency directives. The order states:
Postpones court proceedings for a second time to June 1, 2020;
Continues to direct clerks of court to post notices, such as the attached poster, at court facilities discouraging entry by those infected with COVID-19;
Authorizes court proceedings to be conducted by remote audio and video transmissions;
Directs attorneys and others without business before the court to avoid court facilities;
Allows use of a sworn statement under penalty of perjury rather than notarization for court filings and oaths;
Allows service of court documents by email;
Extends the deadline for payment of most fines and fees by 90 days and directs clerks not to report failures to pay court debt to the DMV.
“Judicial officials and court personnel statewide are going above and beyond to serve the public during this health emergency,” said Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. “My number one priority is to protect them and the public by limiting gatherings and foot traffic in our county courthouses, while making sure our courts stay available to serve the public.”
The April 2 order follows Governor Roy Cooper issuance of Executive Order 121 on March 27, 2020, 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, the courts are directed, to the extent practicable, to maintain social distancing requirements, including “facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible.”
With North Carolina’s COVID-19 infections expected to peak in late April, it is imperative that court operations remain as limited as possible through the next two months. Use of telecourt functions for a wider range of hearings will alleviate the growing backlog in the court system and ensure that courts continue protecting constitutional rights and the safety of North Carolina’s most vulnerable people. Efforts to further leverage technology, including through electronic filing and additional online services continue to move forward as well.
The Chief Justice’s order also extends the time for payment for court debts in traffic and criminal cases for 90 days and suspends reporting of failures to pay to the DMV.
“We want people to know that they do not need to come to the courthouse right now to pay a traffic ticket,” said the Chief Justice. “Deadlines for those payments have been extended and licenses will not be suspended until this emergency passes. We want people staying at home and staying safe.”
Traffic tickets and some other fees can still be paid at NCcourts.gov. The public can also sign up there for text reminders for rescheduled court dates.
In light of this rapidly evolving public health situation, the Judicial Branch will provide continuously updated information on its website, NCcourts.gov. The public is encouraged to visit NCcourts.gov as a first resort to determine if a question can be answered without calling the local courthouse. If you have a question about your court case, please first view the county page in which the case is filed for any local announcements, as well as the closings and advisories page, then, if needed, contact the clerk of superior court office before you go to the courthouse. The public may also visit the Judicial Branch Facebook page and Twitter account to access information related to the coronavirus health concern.
Online court services are available for handling some court business, including citation services, paying your ticket, court payments, signing up for court date notifications and reminders, eFiling court documents for certain courts and case types, and more.