The Coronavirus had been on people’s collective radar for months, and as state leaders began publicly talking about it and its potential effect on North Carolina, Cheri Beasley, the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, began keeping an even sharper eye on the progress of the dangerous virus.
“We knew we were going to have to take some action,” Beasley told Lawyers Weekly.
That action came on March 13, when Beasley issued an order that required district and superior court proceedings to stop, with some exceptions including first appearances and bond hearings, hearings to appoint counsel for indigent defendants, probation hearings, and probable cause or emergency relief hearings. (Attorneys are adapting…)
On March 19, Beasley issued extending filing deadlines on March 19. Documents that are due to be filed from March 16 to April 17 will be deemed timely filed if they before the close of business on April 17. Any actions required to be done during that time can also be postponed until April 17.
Beasley told Lawyers Weekly that in deciding which proceedings would go on and which would stop, her priority was making sure that people still had the right to due process of law, and that victims of domestic violence had help.
“It was crucial that people who have just been arrested have a chance to make their first appearance in court, and it was crucial for victims of domestic violence to have access to the courts,” Beasley said.
She also said that she doesn’t yet know how much closing the courtrooms will ultimately cost.
“I really don’t know to what extent this pandemic will grow, and we are continuing to assess hour by hour the predicted costs and administrative costs,” Beasley said, adding that the Judicial Branch is preparing to make requests to the state and federal governments.
Beasely sent a memo to court stakeholders across the state, saying the status of the pandemic and its impact on the courts would evolve week to week or even day to day, and it would take everyone’s efforts to successfully respond to the pandemic to make sure court leaders, personnel, and the public are at the least amount of risk to exposure to the new coronavirus. Beasley told Lawyers Weekly the feedback from court officials and staff and attorneys has been mostly positive, and their input was integral to her decision to issue the order.
“I am just grateful everyone has chipped in and worked hard and gone above and beyond the call of duty to implement the order,” Beasley said.