All upcoming Superior and District Court hearings are postponed until June, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced Thursday. The decision came as time was running out on her previous order that suspended these court proceedings until mid-April.
“My number one priority is to protect [attorneys, court employees,] and the public by limiting gatherings and foot traffic in our county courthouses, while making sure our courts stay available to serve the public,” Beasley said in a statement.
Cases that have yet to be heard by a jury will not take place in person until June 1 or will take place through a teleconference. While courts are still open, everyone is encouraged to stay out of local courthouses unless absolutely necessary. Cases that can be heard online or over the phone, or cases that involve domestic violence and other emergency relief, will take place. Cases that are related to due process, like probation hearings, will also continue.
Fines and fees are postponed for 90 days, and the DMV will not be notified if someone has yet to make a payment. Filings and oaths will be accepted with a sworn statement, instead of a notary signature.
This Beasley’s order doesn’t address this specifically, it would seem to prevent residential evictions from occurring until June 1 as well, although there’s some gray area. The Durham County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement saying it would not be enforcing eviction rulings, but the statewide memo didn’t mention evictions. Nor did it mention whether evictions could be heard over the phone, either.
Can’t Pay Won’t Pay said in a statement that Beasley’s order doesn’t protect tenants from eviction. They also called Governor Cooper’s “encouragement” that landlords pause filing evictions a joke.
“Neither of these actions do anything to cease the evictions orders currently being filed in courts or provide additional legal protections against evictions during the COVID-19 crisis and that is unacceptable,” the group says. “If eviction orders can still be filed, once the courts are in operation again, the temporary pause on the eviction process will be lifted and cases will resume. People will lose their homes due to this crisis.”
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