Court Reopening Plans, Video Conferencing Rules, and Other COVID-19 Updates

By Kasi Robinson

Some time has passed since the initial flurry of court orders modifying deadlines, postponing in-person hearings, and setting guidelines for remote hearings. In an attempt to stay up to date with the latest orders and announcements from the state and federal courts within North Carolina as those courts begin to contemplate reopening, here is a compilation of the most recent items within each jurisdiction. A high-level summary is included below each order, but the specific language of each order should be carefully reviewed alongside any additional orders issued by a presiding judge in a particular case.

North Carolina State Courts

District and Superior Courts

In anticipation of a June 1, 2020, reopening, many judicial districts have issued memos outlining how reopening will occur.  Attorneys should consult the Judicial Branch’s website for judicial-district specific orders.[1]

N.C. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court

Federal Courts in North Carolina

Eastern District of North Carolina[2]

Middle District of North Carolina

  • May 13, 2020 Standing Order 16
    • Remote hearings will continue to the greatest extent possible. As conditions permit, Judges may begin to conduct certain criminal and civil proceedings in open court.  This order contains guidelines for resuming proceedings in open court, but presiding judges may modify.
  • April 28, 2020 Amended Standing Order 12
    • Sets restrictions on individuals permitted to enter the courthouses. E-filings are encouraged by the drop box in Greensboro, open from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. Monday–Friday.
    • Remains in effect until it is safe to remove or modify these restrictions.
  • April 28, 2020 Amended Standing Order 13
    • Court remains open for official business. Deadlines are not extended and remain in place except as provided by this order or prescribed by a presiding judge.
    • Civil jury trials scheduled to begin before June 8, 2020, are continued and postponed.
    • Criminal cases (including jury trials) are continued to a date on or after June 8, 2020. Provides guidance on issues in criminal cases affected by timing.
  • March 30, 2020 Standing Order 15, In re: Criminal Case Operations Due to Circumstances Created by COVID-19
    • Authorizes video conferencing (or telephone conferencing if video is not reasonably available) for all criminal proceedings listed in Section 15002(b)(1)(A)–(J) of the CARES Act.
    • Remains in effect for 90 days unless terminated earlier.

Western District of North Carolina

In addition to checking for future updates on the court’s website, counsel should consult a specialty docket dedicated to such orders. In re: COVID-19 Administrative Orders, 3:20-mc-00048-FDW (W.D.N.C.).

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

Below is an updated summary chart of the various filing deadlines and continuances currently or most recently in effect in North Carolina federal and state courts.

Court Nature of Proceedings Continued through Authority
N.C. District Court, Superior Court & Business Court






All jury trials June 20, 2020 (likely to be extended through the end of July) Justice Beasley’s May 21, 2020 Order
All in-court proceedings (likely also mediations), with limited exceptions including proceedings implicating due process rights June 1, 2020 Justice Beasley’s Apr. 2, 2020 Order
Deadlines for filings and acts due in civil actions, estates, and special proceedings June 1, 2020 Justice Beasley’s April 13, 2020 Order; Justice Beasley’s May 21, 2020 Order
Certain deadlines in proceedings for forfeiture of bail bonds September 30, 2020
Deadlines for filings and acts due in criminal actions (does not apply to forfeiture of bail bonds) July 31, 2020 Justice Beasley’s May 21, 2020 Order
N.C. Court of Appeals All appellate court filings due between March 27–April 30 Deadlines extended by 60 days March 27, 2020 Supreme Court Order
  All filings of Consent to Appellate Mediation Form and Motion for 60-day Extension of Time due between March 27–April 30 Deadlines extended by 60 days April 3, 2020 Memo – “Impact of COVID-19 on Appellate Mediation Rules and Procedures
N.C. Supreme Court All appellate court filings due between March 27 – April 30 Deadlines extended by 60 days March 27, 2020 Supreme Court Order
W.D.N.C. Criminal trials June 1 April 1, 2020 Order
M.D.N.C. Civil jury trials and criminal cases June 8 Amended Standing Order 13
E.D.N.C. Civil jury trials and criminal cases May 1 Standing Order 5
Fourth Circuit In person oral arguments scheduled to be held May 5–8 Postponed until further notice April 1, 2020 Announcement

Additional Resources

The UNC School of Government North Carolina Criminal Law blog has compiled several excellent posts discussing expanded court operations and potential challenges with the same.  See, e.g., Jamie Markham, Probation Issues Likely to Arise as the Courts Expand Operations (May 13, 2020); Shea Denning, Courts Will Expand Operations on June 1, But It Won’t Be Business as Usual (May 11, 2020).Additional Resources

[1] See, e.g., 18th Judicial District, Detailed Memo Regarding Court Closures (Amended May 14, 2020); 10th Judicial District, Memo on the Expansion of Superior Court Functions (May 7, 2020).

[2] In addition to these court-wide orders, Magistrate Judges Robert B. Jones, Jr. and Robert T. Numbers, II have issued Judicial Preference Orders related to COVID-19.