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North and South Carolina Coronavirus Litigation, UPDATED April 1, 2020

March 25, 2020

In response to the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”), courts across the country have taken many and various precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Here is a simple list and affiliated links to closures, delays, extensions, and other relevant information in both North Carolina and South Carolina. 

South Carolina State Courts

  • All Circuit Court jury trials, non-jury trials, and motion hearings in South Carolina are postponed. Unless otherwise ordered, emergency hearings must be held at the discretion of each Chief Judge for administrative purposes. All previously scheduled terms of court from March 23, 2020 through May 1, 2020 are canceled. All roll calls and any other large gatherings are cancelled until further notice. Unless otherwise noted with the specific courthouse, each court will remain available for critical functions including accepting filings and payments, emergency hearings, and the transmission of necessary information. 2020-03-18-02 Circuit Court Schedule and Judicial Travel Order; March 16, 2020 Coronavirus Memorandum.

At this point, the Supreme Court has not issued any extension of deadlines for cases pending in circuit court except as provided below in certain types of cases. 

  • A compilation of all orders, memos, and information related to specific county court closures is available on SC Courts.
  • Individual judicial circuits have issued additional orders with instructions specific to the circuit. The SC Bar maintains a compilation. SC Bar.
  • All evictions currently ordered or scheduled statewide are stayed until at least May 1, 2020. The court is not accepting applications for ejectment, scheduling hearings, issuing writs or warrants of ejectment, or proceeding in any other manner regarding evictions until directed by subsequent order of the court. However, the Court left open a case-by-case exception for evictions involving essential services and/or harm to person or property. 2020-03-18-01 Statewide Evictions and Foreclosures.
  • The Supreme Court of South Carolina issued a moratorium (or postponement) statewide of all foreclosure hearings, foreclosure sales, writs of assistance and writs of ejectment until directed by subsequent order of the Court. 2020-03-18-01 Statewide Evictions and Foreclosures.
  • All family courts statewide shall only hear emergency matters including, but not limited to, issues involving: DSS Emergency Protective Custody, Juvenile Detention, Bench Warrants, and Positions for Orders of Protection from Domestic Abuse. Only attorneys, clients, and necessary witnesses are permitted to appear for these emergency hearings. 2020-03-18-04 Statewide Family Court Order.
  • All oral arguments currently scheduled before the Supreme Court of South Carolina and the South Carolina Court of Appeals are cancelled. The Supreme Court or Court of Appeals will consider alternative methods of conducting the arguments or hearing.  The Order, among other things, extended deadlines for all Appellate Court filings by 20 days from March 20, 2020. However, this does not extend the time to serve a notice of appeal under SCACR Rules 203, 242, 247.  2020-03-20-01 Appellate Court Order.
  • For summary courts, including magistrate and municipal courts, all jury trials are postponed. All non-jury trials and other hearings may continue to be held, but only attorneys, their clients, and necessary witnesses will be allowed to appear.  Court houses will remain available for critical functions. Any person charged with a non-capital crime must be ordered released pending trial on his own recognizance without surety, unless an unreasonable danger to the community will result of the accused is an extreme flight risk. Bench warrants for failure to appear will not be issued at this time. Bond hearings must be held at least once per day. Court dates may be rescheduled as is necessary and prudent. Video and telephonic hearings are permitted. March 16, 2020, Summary Courts Coronavirus Memorandum.
  • A party that is required to participate in mediation may request that it be conducted via video conference. 2020-03-19-01 Mediation Settlement Conferences.
  • In addition to the above, lawyers who failed to comply with the 2019-2020 Continuing Legal Education requirements will be suspended if they do not file reports of compliance and pay the filing fee and any penalty by April 15, 2020. Effective immediately, lawyers may earn all or any portion of the required fourteen hours of CLE credit for the 2019-2020 annual reporting year through online or telephonic programs. 2020-03-17-01 Waiver of Distance Learning Limitations.

United States District Court – District of South Carolina

  • In the District of South Carolina, all civil and criminal jury selections and trials scheduled to start through May 8, 2020 are postponed until further notice. All grand jury proceedings scheduled through May 8 are postponed unless otherwise noted by the chief judge. In all civil cases, deadlines (those established by agreement or Fed. R. Civ. P.) are extended 21 days but statutes of limitation are not All other civil and criminal matters scheduled for an in-court appearance before May 8 and their associated deadlines are postponed, unless the matter can be resolved remotely. DSC Standing Order.
  • On April 1, 2020, the District of South Carolina Court issued a standing order with additional information regarding court operations including: closing the clerk’s office to the public, however, it remains available by phone, noting its continued acceptance of ECF filings, and noting procedures for pro se filers and payments by check. DSC Standing Order.

North Carolina State Courts

  • All pleadings, motions, notices, and other documents or papers previously due on or after March 16, 2020 are now due before the close of business on April 17, 2020. This extension does not aply to appellate court proceedings, however it does apply to cases in Business Court. North Carolina Order Extending DeadlinesNorth Carolina Business Court Order.
  • All “other acts” that were or are due to be done in any North Carolina county on or before March 16, 2020 in any civil action, criminal action, estates, or special proceedings are now due on or before the close of business on April 17, 2020. North Carolina Order Extending Deadlines.
  • 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. The order encourages electronic filings.  Supreme Court of North Carolina Order.
  • All superior court and district court proceedings are postponed at least 30 days, unless: the proceeding is held remotely, the proceeding is necessary to preserve due process rights, the proceeding is for emergency relief, and/or the senior resident superior court judge, chief business court judge, or chief district court judge determines that the proceeding can be conducted under conditions that protect the health and safety or participants. This does not apply to juries or grand juries that have already been empaneled.  Emergency Directive 1.
  • The Supreme Court of North Carolina also imposed restriction to entry any court facility if the individual has likely been exposed to COVID19 including those individuals who have traveled to China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, or Iran within the past 14 days, who has been directed to quarantine, isolate, or self-monitor, who has been diagnosed, or who resides with or has been in close contact with any person in the above mentioned categories. Emergency Directive 2.
  • North Carolina also provides a county-by-county breakdown or court closing and advisories. The notice provides, however, the parties should still check with the specific county to verify whether it is remains open. County Court Closings or Advisories.

United States District Court – Eastern District of North Carolina

  • In the Eastern District of North Carolina all civil and criminal jury trials scheduled to begin before May 1, 2020 are continued. All other hearings, conferences, and other proceedings are subject to the discretion of the judge presiding. Grand jury matters will proceed. Where feasible, judges should consider hearings and other conferences over video conference or telephone. EDNC Standing Order.
  • Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms of COVID-19, have travelled to highly impacted areas, or may have otherwise been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting any courthouse without permission from the chief judge. EDNC Standing Order.

United States District Court – Middle District of North Carolina

  • In the Middle District of North Carolina, all civil trials scheduled to begin before April 16, 2020 are postponed until further notice. All criminal cases are postponed to a date on or after April 16, 2020. Grand jury proceedings scheduled for March are canceled. All deadlines in all cases are not extended and remain in effect. MDNC Standing Order.
  • In Standing Order 13, the M.D.N.C. extended its previous standing order and continued ALL CIVIL and CRIMINAL JURY TRIALS and IN-COURT HEARINGS scheduled to begin before May 4, 2020. MDNC Standing Order 13.
  • Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms, or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting any courthouse without permission from the chief judge. MDNC Standing Order.

United States District Court – Western District of North Carolina

  • In the Western District of North Carolina judges are staggering their hearings and hearings will be held in the largest courtroom available. Non-evidentiary hearings and mediations should be conducted remotely where possible. WDNC Standing Order
  • Those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, have symptoms, or may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from visiting any courthouse. WDNC Standing Order.
  • Oral arguments on summary judgment motions in civil cases before Judge Conrad are suspended. All summary judgment motions will be decided on the briefs until further notice. Judge Conrad Directive.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

  • Cases previously scheduled for argument during the March 17-20, 2020 and April 7, 2020 argument sessions will be heard at a later session, heard remotely or submitted on the briefs, at the direction of the assigned panels. The Powell Courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, is closed to the public. Papers may be filed in the courthouse lobby, but those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, those with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who may have been exposed to the virus are prohibited from entering the building. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Directive
  • The Fourth Circuit subsequently issued an Order suspending the normal requirement that the court will not publish an opinion without oral argument, in light of the suspension/cancellation of at least the March and April terms of court. If the panel unanimously agrees, the opinion may be published even if there is no oral argument.  Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Order.

On a more national level, the Federal Bar Associate compiled a number of resources and valuable educational updates surrounding the COVID-19 situation. Federal Bar Association CLEs.

Nexsen Pruet has drafted a several templates for your business to send to clients regarding the virus and its potential impact. The templates are available for a small fee, however, Nexsen Pruet is providing the templates to nonprofit organizations free of charge. For more information, contact any Nexsen Pruet business litigation attorney.

Our Insights are published as a service to clients and friends. They are intended to be informational and do not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation.