Be a Part of Our Team – the Litigation Section Needs You!

By Rick Conner

Thank you all for being members of the Litigation Section! As you know, your Section membership offers numerous benefits, such as networking opportunities, discounted CLE rates, and the opportunity to read and publish on our blog.

Because of COVID-19, we are living in strange and challenging times, unlike anything any of us have ever seen during our careers. Attorneys, judges, courthouse officials, legal staff, and our clients are all doing their best to adapt to social distancing and public health recommendations that make operating a business and maintaining a litigation practice much more difficult. New rules and recommendations are being written and revised nearly every week, and it is a constant challenge to stay up to speed on the latest developments.

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New COVID-19 Orders from Chief Justice Beasley on Civil Court Operations

By PJ Puryear

Chief Justice Beasley just rolled out her newest orders on the courts.

You can read about them here, but below are the highlights that should be of interest to North Carolina litigators:

Filing, Deadlines, and Statutes of Limitation/Repose

  • Filings due pursuant to statutes of limitation or repose are extended until July 31.
  • Filings and actions due in civil matters that had been previously extended are due June 1.
  • Filings by mail are encouraged and clerks may require filings be dropped off rather than submitted face-to-face at a service counter as well as reduce hours/require appointments.
  • To encourage filing by mail, a 5-day grace period will be provided for documents delivered by mail.

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COVID-19 Eviction Assistance Project – Help Those Who Are in Jeopardy of Losing the Most

By Will Quick

Dear Litigation Section Members:

We know better than most how great a disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused to the legal system. Trials have been postponed indefinitely, motions are just starting to be heard remotely, and how we connect with, advise, and counsel our clients is so very different than it was just two months ago.

While we litigators want the courts to open up as soon as is safely possible, the reopening of the Courts carries a whole different significance for many North Carolinians. For many in our state, the reopening of the courts—particularly the Small Claims Court—represents the moment when they must face the reality of eviction proceedings stemming from an inability to pay residential rent due to the impact of COVID-19 on their personal financial situations.

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COVID-19 Update

By Martha J. Efird

Formed by Chief Justice Beasley, the COVID-19 Judicial Task Force (Task Force) comprised of members of our judiciary, other court officials, and members of the bar has met twice to anticipate, identify, and discuss issues related to the transition of our courts back to full operations. The next meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., May 13, 2020, and may be livestreamed. Additional Task Force information is available.

While the Task Force addresses issues statewide, our judicial districts are working tirelessly to develop plans and procedures for the resumption of local court functions in keeping with the directives of our Chief Justice, our Governor, and health care advisors. As judicial districts make information available, we will share it with this practice section. The statewide judicial conferences remain scheduled for the week of June 15, 2020.

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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.

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Chief Justice Further Extends Deadlines for North Carolina Court Filings, Acts, and Limitations Periods

By Jacob Morse

On March 19, 2020, Chief Justice Beasley of the Supreme Court of North Carolina entered an order extending deadlines for filings and actions to be done in North Carolina trial courts which were set to be filed or done between March 16, 2020 and April 17, 2020.  This blog summarized that order and several subsequent related orders entered by the Chief Justice and the Chief Judge of the North Carolina Business Court.

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New Order Closes State Courts Through May 1 (if not June 1) For Most Business

By Kevin Stanfield and PJ Puryear

A few days ago, we provided the section an update on extensions and closures due to COVID-19. With another week comes yet another update, this by way of an Order from Chief Justice Beasley.

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-39(b)(2), Chief Justice Beasley has issued seven emergency directives which we have summarized below. The Order itself is not long, and we highly encourage everyone to read it, to ensure your staff and firm are familiar with the changes it provides, and we also strongly encourage you to make your clients aware of how this affects not only proceedings that may be pending, but their accessibility to our state courts for the next 30 if not 60 days.

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Update on Closures, Extensions, and Staying at Home – COVID-19

Jacob Morse

PJ Puryear

By Jacob Morse and PJ Puryear

Last week, NCBA Litigation Section members provided an overview of court closures and deadline extensions due to COVID-19. This post is to provide an update, as well as to highlight resources that have become available to practitioners and the public.

Trial Courts

On Friday March 13, 2020, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley of the Supreme Court of North Carolina entered an order continuing most District and Superior Court hearings and trials which were scheduled to take place between March 16, 2020 and April 16, 2020. On March 19, 2020, the Chief Justice issued a second order affecting most filings and acts which were due to be filed or done from March 16, 2010 through April 17, 2020. These orders removed the affected hearings or trials from court calendars and extended all deadlines for filings and other actions (which we believe includes, but is not limited to items such as discovery) through April 17, 2020. On March 23, 2020, Chief Judge Louis Bledsoe of the North Carolina Business Court entered an administrative order formally stating that the Chief Justice’s March 19, 2020 order also applies to all matters pending in front of Business Court Judges.

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North Carolina Judicial Branch – Updated Emergency Order re: COVID-19

Martha J. Efird

Jonah Garson

By Martha J. Efird and Jonah Garson

Effective immediately and by Order of Chief Justice Beasley, all court documents due to be filed in any non-appellate state court on or after March 16, 2020 and by April 17, 2020 will be deemed timely if filed by the close of business on April 17, 2020. You can find the accompanying press release here, and below is a quick summary:

  • Relevant language: “[A]ll pleadings, motions, notices, and other documents and papers that were or are due to be filed in any county of this state on or after 16 March 2020 and before the close of business on 17 April 2020 in civil actions, criminal actions, estates, and special proceedings shall be deemed to be timely filed if they are filed before the close of business on 17 April 2020.” Beyond filings, the Order also applies to “all other acts that were or are due to be done [in civil actions, criminal actions, estates and special proceedings] in any county of this state[.]”
  • The Order applies to filings subject to statute of limitations periods expiring between March 16, 2020, and April 17, 2020 (the Order does not, however, toll statutes of limitations; it has no effect on statutes of limitations that are due to expire on or after April 18, 2020).
  • The Order does not apply to any appellate court filings. However, the Supreme Court has issued a catastrophic conditions order and appellate court arguments are being postponed. For more information on this, see Beth Scherer’s post here.
  • The Clerks of Superior Court in Wake County and Mecklenburg County are reducing their hours of operation and staffing, and other districts may soon follow suit. Wake County Clerk of Superior Court counters will be open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and filers are encouraged to use drop boxes on the first floor of the courthouse. The Mecklenburg Clerk of Superior Court’s office will be open 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and emergency and essential filings will be accepted between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Criminal Magistrate’s Office. Clerks are requesting that attorneys please not come to courthouse facilities unless required to do so.
  • At publication time, sheriff’s offices remain open as normal and are receiving and serving papers.

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Ethical Considerations for North Carolina Litigators During COVID-19

Amy Richardson

Marilyn Forbes

By Amy Richardson and Marilyn Forbes

COVID-19 (coronavirus) has created uncertainty in all areas including in our professional lives. The following are a few ethical considerations that litigators should keep in mind during this time.

COMMUNICATION: Make sure to update and timely respond to your clients. North Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4 governs communications between lawyers and their clients. Rule 1.4 requires, among other things, that lawyers keep their clients “reasonably informed about the status of the matter.” Clients with pending matters may be concerned about the impact of Chief Justice Beasley’s March 13, 2020 Order on their particular case. Lawyers with cases impacted by the Order should provide guidance to their clients on the current impact and potential impact of the matter. It is appropriate to tell your clients that things are in flux, but that you are monitoring developments.

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