Closings in Greensboro

Guilford County Courthouse in Greensboro, NC on March 13, 2020. (H. Scott Hoffmann/ News & Record)

North Carolina residents won't see any jury trials until at least August, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley said Thursday.

But after two months of limited court operations, courthouses across North Carolina will start hearing civil and criminal cases, but many of those hearings will be online. And court hearings that are done at courthouses will be look vastly different than before the COVID-19 pandemic started.

"Dockets will be smaller. Cases will be heard online. We're going to have to socially distance in the courthouse," Beasley said in a statement.

Since March, Beasley has issued several executive orders that continued most District and Superior court cases, both criminal and civil, until June 1. Beginning next month, courts across North Carolina will start sifting through the backlog and handling all those cases that had been continued. 

Beasley is still urging people not to crowd into courthouses, and courtrooms will be marked to comply with social-distancing rules. In some courthouses, court personnel may take temperatures of those who enter the building and may ask or require people to wear face masks. 

In Thursday's orders, Beasley extended some deadlines for court filings and other required actions until July 31. 

No court hearings will be scheduled that cannot accommodate social-distancing requirements that people stay 6 feet away from each other. Courthouses will be cleaned throughout the day, and Beasley said hand sanitizer should be made available. 

Beasley said that several court employees in the state have become sick with COVID-19. In April, the Forsyth County Hall of Justice was shut down for two days after an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Michael Hewlett is a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal.

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