RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s Supreme Court chief justice said it can not be business as usual when courts begin to reopen next month.
Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said many in the North Carolina court system have knowingly exposed themselves to COVID-19 over the last two months in order to keep aspects of the justice system working.
She said several employees of the courts have fallen ill.
“Our courts are open and will remain open,” she said. North Carolina courts have handled as many as 20,000 cases a week during the pandemic, she said.
Thursday morning, the chief justice announced how the North Carolina court system would begin to move forward over the summer.
“Court will look different for a while,” Beasley. The chief justice said it would be irresponsible to attempt to go back to normal as courthouses at times bring together thousands from across several counties.
The changes will include smaller dockets, social distancing markings in the courthouse, online hearings and those in the courthouse wearing masks.
While more in-person hearings will take place – those will not include jury trials, Beasley said.
“We are not yet ready to resume jury trials,” Beasley said.
Jury trials will be postponed until August.
Deadlines imposed by statutes of limitation and deadlines existing in criminal matters are extended until July 31.
Beasley said other deadlines that were extended until June 1 will not be extended until the end of the July.
Beasley’s comments come a day after Gov. Roy Cooper announced a modified Phase Two would be put in place on Friday.
On March 13, Beasley continued most all cases for 30 days after Gov. Roy Cooper banned gatherings of more than 100 people.
On April 3, the chief justice closed the courts until June 1.
North Carolina is slated to move into Phase Two of its reopening on Friday at 5 p.m.
Phase Two bans indoor gatherings of more than 10 people.