A ‘Measured Reopening’ of the North Carolina Court System

March 19, 2021Alerts

As COVID-19 numbers improve, North Carolina is among the states beginning to resume in-person hearings and civil trials. The week of March 14 saw several developments that collectively signal a “measured reopening” of the courts, while certain protections and restrictions remain in place.

Jury Trials Resume in Mecklenburg County (Charlotte)

On the reopening front, jury trials resumed in-person this week in Mecklenburg County. This marks a change from the remote, “virtual” bench trials conducted during the past year. As the state’s largest county, Mecklenburg’s decision to resume live jury trials may signal a broader trend toward “reopening” across the state. 

Emergency Directives Extended

While reopening efforts no doubt are underway, the process will be gradual. Recognizing this need for caution as the state reopens, North Carolina’s Chief Justice Paul Newby entered a March 15, 2021 order extending several expiring emergency directives for an additional 30 days through April 11. Among other impacts, this means the courts will continue to allow affirmations instead of sworn declarations to support certain filings such as pleadings, motions and affidavits that require verification. Face coverings and distancing procedures continue to be required while in common areas of all court facilities.

Remote Notarizations and Oaths Extended 

The North Carolina legislature has extended provisions allowing remote oaths and notarizations of documents through December 31, 2021. (See Session Law 2021-3, p. 16) For details on how the remote notarization and oath requirements work, see our prior post here. This extension will allow closings and court proceedings requiring oaths, such as depositions, to continue remotely if necessary. 

Key Takeaways

  • Rules are changing: This “measured reopening” ushers in a new period of change. Over the coming weeks and months, rules and emergency directives will evolve as our court system reopens. 

  • Check your local rules: As reopening continues, practitioners should be as vigilant as ever to stay informed of changes in local procedures and other reopening rules.

For more information on the topic of this alert, contact attorneys Jeff MacHarg at [email protected] or 704.384.2618; or Matthew Krueger-Andes at [email protected] or 704.384.2635, of the firm's Charlotte office.