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Note:  Following publication of this article, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley entered an order further extending deadlines and statutes of limitations from April 17, 2020 until June 1, 2020.  Accordingly, all filings due between March 16, 2020 and June 1, 2020 will be deemed timely if filed by the close of business on June 1, 2020.

On March 13, 2020, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced the first of several orders and directives regarding the operation of the North Carolina Court system during the COVID-19 outbreak.  Since that time, the Chief Justice has announced several additional measures aimed at maintaining essential court services while balancing the need to limit physical access to court buildings throughout the state.

Postponement of In-Person Hearings and Trials 

On March 16, 2020, North Carolina’s District and Superior Courts were ordered to postpone cases for at least thirty (30) days, with certain exceptions for proceedings that (1) could be heard remotely; (2) were necessary to preserve the right to due process; (3) were for the purpose for obtaining emergency relief; or (4) the senior resident judge of that respective court determined could be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety of all the participants.  On April 2, 2020, the Chief Justice extended the postponement through at least June 1, 2020.  

Deadlines and Statutes of Limitations 

On March 19, 2020, the Chief Justice entered an order extending deadlines and certain periods of limitations to file claims. Under this order, any pleadings, motions, notices, and other documents or papers that were scheduled to be filed in a North Carolina State Court between March 16, 2020 and April 17, 2020 will be deemed to be timely if filed by the close of business on April 17, 2020.  This extension also applies to statutes of limitations, meaning that if a person’s deadline to file suit is between March 16, 2020 and April 17, 2020, it will be deemed timely if filed by Friday, April 17, 2020. People with past-due filings should be prepared to file by Friday’s deadline.

Limitations on Access to Courthouses

While hearing and trials are being largely postponed, courthouses remain open for essential business, albeit at reduced hours and with a reduced staff in many cases. Attorneys have been ordered to not enter courthouses, unless they have business that requires them to be at the courthouse.  Individuals who have (1) been experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; (2) been directed to quarantine, isolate, or self-monitor; (3) have been exposed to or have been diagnosed with COVID-19; (4) traveled internationally in the preceding 14 days; or (5) have been in close contact with or resides with anyone who falls into one of the other categories, are not to enter courthouses.  If a person falls within one of these categories has business with the court, they should contact the clerk’s office and receive instructions on how to handle such business.

Appellate Courts

In addition to the impact on Superior and District Courts, North Carolina’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have been impacted as well.  Any appellate deadlines that fall between March 27, 2020 and April 30, 2020 are extended for sixty (60) days.

Federal Courts

Although the above measures apply to North Carolina’s state courts, North Carolina’s three Federal District Courts have also been taking measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.  While North Carolina’s Federal District Courts have not automatically extended filing deadlines, all have implemented certain measures such as reducing courthouse hours and visitors and rescheduling many in-person hearings and trials.  Electronic filing remains the primary means for filing documents in those courts.  Individuals with business in one of the Federal District Courts should consult that Court’s current orders related to COVID-19 for specific information.

Should you have any questions about how the current restrictions and/or extensions impact your case, please contact Denis Jacobson at djacobson@tuggleduggins.com or (336) 271‑5242 or Daniel Stratton at dstratton@tuggleduggins.com or (336) 271-5240. Please also follow our Twitter account @TuggleDuggins at https://twitter.com/TuggleDuggins  for continuing, up-to-date information related to navigating the law during the COVID-19 outbreak.

© 2020 Tuggle Duggins P.A. All Rights Reserved. The purpose of this bulletin is to provide a general summary of significant legal developments. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or a recommended course of action in any given situation. It is not intended to be, and should not be, relied upon by the recipient in making decisions of a legal nature. Moreover, information contained in this bulletin may have changed subsequent to its publication. This bulletin does not create an attorney-client relationship between Tuggle Duggins P.A. and the recipient. Therefore, please consult legal counsel before making any decisions or taking any action concerning the issues discussed herein.

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