UPDATED June 23, 2020

There have been several operation and deadline updates affecting North Carolina’s courts and the Industrial Commission.  Check below to see how this may impact you or your business.

N.C. Appellate Court Filing Deadlines

Chief Justice Beasley issued an order on May 30, 2020 extending deadlines for filing a notice of appeal. That order states that:

“In any matter in which the deadline to file a notice of appeal fell between 13 March 2020 and 1 June 2020, the deadline for filing such appeal and making any required payment or bond is hereby extended to 30 June 2020.”

This supplements the March 27 order extending appellate deadlines 60 days for all deadlines that fell between March 27 and April 30, 2020.

The Supreme Court of North Carolina entered an order on May 14 that made changes to several rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Court calendars may be published with less advanced notice – clerk now only has to give 2 weeks’ notice of prior to the first day of court

On March 27, the Supreme Court of North Carolina issued an order extending all appellate court deadlines that fall between March 27 – April 30, 2020 for 60 days.

N.C. Court Filing Deadlines

On June 20, Chief Justice Beasley extends emergency orders regarding jury trials and court facility public health measures.

On May 30, Chief Justice Beasley issued three new executive orders that delay any pending evictions in trial courts until June 21, 2020, extend several of the existing emergency directives, extend the time for filing notices of appeal and create a mediation program eviction proceedings.

On May 21, Chief Justice Beasley issued new emergency orders that further extend filing deadlines, postpone jury trials and place cleaning and social distancing restrictions on in-person court proceedings. The orders postpone all jury trials until at least August 2020, limit in-person contact with clerk of court office staff and place restrictions on in-person court proceedings. Filings required by any statutes of limitation or statutes of repose are extended to July 31, 2020, and filings for civil matters that were due between March 16 and June 1 must now be made by the close of business on June 1.

On April 13, Chief Justice Beasley issued an order that further extends filings and other court-related deadlines. According the press release, “The order states that documents due to be filed from March 16 to June 1 will be deemed timely filed if received before the close of business on June 1, 2020, and that any actions required to be done during that time can also be postponed until June 1, 2020. The order also includes a stay of pending bail bond forfeiture proceedings.”

On April 2, Chief Justice Beasley issued an order postponing court proceedings in North Carolina until June 1, 2020. The order allows for court proceedings to be handled remotely via video or audio transmission, the use of a sworn statement under penalty of perjury rather than notarization for court filings and oaths and the service of court documents by email with party consent required. There is 5 p.m. deadline for documents to be counted for that day.

On March 29, Chief Justice Beasley issued an order extending filing deadlines and curtailing other court processes. Documents due to be filed between March 16-April 17 will be deemed timely if they are filed before close of business on April 17, 2020. Any acts required from March 16-April 17 in civil actions, criminal actions, estates, and special proceedings are postponed until April 17, 2020. The N.C. Judicial Branch has more information on its website.

N.C. Business Court Filing Deadlines

On April 13, Chief Justice Beasley issued an order that further extends filings and other court-related deadlines until June 1, 2020. The order applies to all actions now pending in North Carolina Business Court. All pleadings, motions, briefs, notices, and other documents and papers due to be filed between March 16 and June 1 will be considered timely if filed by June 1. For more information, visit https://www.nccourts.gov/courts/business-court.

County Court Updates

Brunswick County Superior Courts issued an Administrative Order on May 13 announcing that all hearings will be held via WebEx.

Pender and New Hanover County Superior Courts issued notice announcing that all hearings will be held via WebEx.

Wake County Superior Court will be limiting the number of in-person hearings and the number of people allowed in courtrooms at one time. Calendar requests for in-person and WebEx meetings can be submitted now, and WebEx meetings will primarily be held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There will be no jury trials in June, and once jury trials resume, trials that were postponed due to the closure will be scheduled first.

N.C. Industrial Commission

The N.C. Industrial Commission is currently open with staff working remotely if possible. Please contact the Commission staff via email instead of by phone. Staff members may not be able to access their work phone or voicemail messages. Email addresses can be found under the “Sections” tab on the Commission’s website.

To encourage social distancing, the N.C. Industrial Commission is allowing the use of DocuSign. To read specifics, visit here

Industrial Commission Mediation Policies as of June 16, 2020

The Industrial Commission has adopted an emergency amendment to Rule 11 NCAC 23G .0104, which has been approved by the Codifier of Rules and which is effective as of June 16, 2020. A copy of the emergency rule amendment can be found here.

Under this emergency rule amendment, all Industrial Commission mediations shall be conducted remotely, unless all parties and persons required to attend the mediation, including the mediator, agree to conduct the mediation in person, or unless the Industrial Commission orders that the mediation shall be conducted in person following a motion filed with John Schafer, the Dispute Resolution Coordinator, pursuant to Rule 11 NCAC 23G .0104(b) and Rule 11 NCAC 23G .0111.

This emergency rule amendment was adopted by the Industrial Commission after the North Carolina Supreme Court entered an Order on June 3, 2020 amending Rule 4(a)(2) of the Rules for Mediated Settlement Conferences and Other Settlement Procedures in Superior Court Civil Actions, making attendance via remote technology the default method of attendance in Superior Court case mediations. Pursuant to G.S. §97-80(c), the Industrial Commission’s mediation rules must be substantially similar to the mediation rules approved by the Supreme Court for use in the Superior Court division. The amendment satisfies the statutory requirement.

The emergency rule amendment will proceed through both temporary and permanent rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act over the course of the next 6-9 months.

Notice of Proposed Temporary Rulemaking and Public Hearing – Proposed Amendment to Rule 11 NCAC 23G .0104

The Industrial Commission has proposed temporary rulemaking to adopt an amendment to Rule 11 NCAC 23G .0104.

A copy of the text of the proposed temporary rule amendment can be found here.

Written Comments

The Industrial Commission will accept written comments on the proposed temporary rule amendment from June 15, 2020 through July 8, 2020. Written comments may be sent to Gina Cammarano, Rulemaking Coordinator, via email at gina.cammarano@ic.nc.gov or via U.S. mail at 1240 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1240.  Please note that emailing your written comments to Gina Cammarano is the preferred method at this time due to Industrial Commission staff working remotely, to the greatest extent possible, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Hearing

The Industrial Commission will hold a public hearing on this proposed temporary rule amendment on Thursday June 25, 2020 at 2 p.m. Out of an abundance of caution and to address protective measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the public hearing will be held via teleconference only instead of being held in person. The teleconference phone number is:  1-888-363-4735. The access code is: 4465746.

Hearings

Full Commission Hearings

Beginning June 1, full Commission hearings will be conducted by teleconference.

Deputy Commissioner Hearings

Consistent with Chief Justice Beasley’s May 21, 2020 Order directing judicial officials to “make use of remote hearing technology to the greatest extent possible to limit in-person appearances,” Deputy Commissioners will resume hearing all types of workers’ compensation cases in June 2020 through the use of WebEx technology. For cases on the June 2020 docket where both parties are represented, the parties may jointly request a WebEx hearing by emailing the presiding Deputy Commissioner, and the Deputy Commissioner will make every effort to proceed with the WebEx hearing in June. If the Deputy Commissioner is unable to hold the WebEx hearing in June, the case will be set for a WebEx hearing in July or as soon as possible thereafter.  There will be no in-person hearings held in June unless otherwise ordered by the Commission.

Deputy Commissioner Medical Motion Hearings

Deputy Commissioner hearings on medical motions will be conducted in June 2020 with all parties appearing by teleconference, unless the Deputy Commissioner advises that the hearing will be conducted via WebEx videoconference (details regarding WebEx hearings will be provided in the near future). Based upon the parties’ stipulated facts and exhibits, the presiding Deputy Commissioner may excuse the parties from appearing at the G.S. §97-25(f) hearing if the parties and the Deputy Commissioner agree that no lay witnesses are needed to decide the case. If the parties are excused from appearing at the hearing because no lay witnesses are needed, the parties should proceed as usual with obtaining any expert medical testimony needed to close the record.

Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP continues to follow all developments related to COVID-19, and we are available to answer any questions our clients have about ongoing legal matters.