In response to growing concerns over the spread of Covid-19, Chief Justice Beasley issued a second, updated emergency order on April 2, 2020. This order was designed to complement Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 121, commonly referred to as the “shelter-in-place” order, which went into effect the evening of March 30
The purpose of this order is to protect court staff and personnel, including attorneys and other members of the public, from coming into contact with people who may have been infected by the highly contagious virus. This is also to accommodate the advice and recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has urged members of the public to avoid gathering in groups larger than ten and to remain at least six feet away from other people, as much as possible.
However, court and legal services provide necessary societal functions. Therefore, to combat the injustice and deprivation of constitutional rights that would likely occur if the courts and legal system were to be wholly shut down, most court proceedings have simply been postponed until June 1, when courts are expected to be opened to the public once more. Yet, there are several exceptions to this, for example, both parties could consent to continue with their case via remote audio and/or video transmission. Additionally, all emergency services, such as domestic violence protective orders may still be filed and heard, as an essential purpose of the legal system is to protect the vulnerable.
Importantly, Justice Beasley’s emergency order also provides important extensions to payment deadlines for court fines and other fees. This was to assist those who may be facing financial hardships due to the spread of Covid-19 and the loss of work suffered by many in our community. Retroactive relief has been provided for anyone ordered to pay a court fine or fee within 40 days prior to April 6. For fees assessed between April 6 and May 1, due dates have been extended to 90 days. Clerks have also been ordered not to report failure to pay court debts to the DMV, in accordance with the new payment extensions and deadlines.