A New Chief Justice Beasley Order, Session Law 2020-3, and the Court Wants Your Help!

PJ Puryear

Kellie Myers

By PJ Puryear and Kellie Myers

Good morning, everyone! There are three important new developments that we want to ensure you know.

1. Chief Justice Beasley’s Newest Order
As most of you know by now, last Friday Chief Justice Beasley issued a new Order regarding the administration of justice during COVID-19. Every part of that Order is incredibly important, extending the Chief Justice’s prior directives out to June 1, clarifying the procedure regarding remote hearings, and much more. We recommend every attorney and paralegal read this Order in full. Click here to read it.

2. Session Law 2020-3
Second comes Session Law 2020-3. No, not the one that provides for $1.2 billion in possible funds, although that’s worth reading, too. Instead it is the Act to Provide Aid to North Carolinians in Response to the Coronavirus Disease 2010 (COVID-19 Crisis). There are several aspects to this Session Law that will affect how many of you and your colleagues conduct business. It includes new rules for emergency video notarization, emergency video witnessing of wills, health care powers of attorneys executed during a state emergency, and for the large readership of soon-to-be attorneys on this blog (that’s possibly sarcasm), new rules for your oath!

And for the civil liability litigators out there, there is also this: “Essential businesses; emergency response entities; liability limitation.” (Emphasis added).

There may be other aspects of this Session Law that apply to you and scrolling through the emboldened sections of this Session Law takes 10 minutes (even less if you use the “find” function for the words court and attorney). Take a moment and do it now.

3. Chief Justice Beasley Forms COVID-19 Task Force, and It Includes You!
Finally, the Chief Justice has created a COVID-19 Task Force. We know what you’re thinking: capes required. Luckily, COVID-19 has loosened the dress code.

In fact, this Task Force is a committee of attorneys, trial court administrators, clerks, and judges who want to make sure the court system continues to efficiently function in these trying times. A list of its members is below. Its first meeting was last Friday. Its next meeting is today at 2 p.m.

This is where you come in.

The Task Force needs our help, because the efficient administration of justice takes all of us.

It comes as no surprise that COVID-19 has forced our judicial system—if not the entire legal community—to cut from whole cloth. That means summoning new ideas, challenging them by process, and being open to change. Why? As Chief Justice Beasley has said, “we cannot continue indefinitely with so many of our court functions frozen in time. We must begin to plan to provide a greater level of service to the public while still protecting the health and safety of all who work in and visit our county courthouses.”

So how can you help? Today, at 2 p.m., the Task Force will hold its second meeting. They respectfully request you watch it here: https://www.nccourts.gov/commissions/judicial-branch-covid-19-task-force (YouTube screen below the Members section), and then tell them what you think about best practices—even if you can’t watch. Reach out to your attorney representatives on the Task Force with your input or send an email to Kellie Myers in Wake County (who promises not to shame you publicly for your ideas).

Your participation helps this Task Force and the judicial system drive the policy changes and best practices necessary to help courts across the state provide increased levels of service to the public in the coming months. The Task Force thanks all of those who are working diligently toward this goal already, and all of you who will help join in this mission.

We know this is quite a bit of information. So in closing, if you remember only three items from this blog post, please let it be these: (1) Courts in North Carolina are not closed!; (2) please tune in today at 2 p.m. and help the Task Force; and (3) when you do, while the dress code is relaxed, please remember to still wear pants.


Task Force Members

•Don Bridges, Co-Chair, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, Cleveland and Lincoln Counties

•Jay Corpening, Co-Chair, Chief District Court Judge, New Hanover and Pender Counties

•Wayland Sermons, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge; Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Washington, and Tyrrell Counties

•Teresa Vincent, Chief District Court Judge, Guilford County

•Billy West, District Attorney, Cumberland County

•Robert Evans, District Attorney; Nash, Edgecombe, and Wilson Counties

•Marsha Johnson, Clerk of Superior Court, Harnett County

•Elisa Chinn-Gary, Clerk of Superior Court, Mecklenburg County

•Kinsley Craig, Trial Court Administrator, Cleveland and Lincoln Counties

•Kellie Myers, Trial Court Administrator, Wake County

•Jason Cheek, Magistrate, Davidson County

•Jennifer Harjo, Public Defender, New Hanover and Pender Counties

•John M. McCabe, Attorney, Wake County

•J. Wade Harrison, Attorney, Alamance and Guilford Counties

•Patrick Benton Weede, Attorney, Wake County

•JD Keister, Attorney, Wake County