On Tuesday, Troy posted on the uncertainty surrounding how North Carolina appeals are being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.  On Thursday, the Chief Justice issued a catastrophic conditions order extending deadlines and other court proceedings for one month.  Notably, this extension order does not apply to documents filed or acts to be done in the appellate courts. (But see final two paragraphs below). For an analysis of the effect of that emergency order, please see Pat Kane’s new blog post at It’s Just Business.

Yet in news appellate court practitioners can use, we learned today that the Supreme Court’s April and May oral argument calendars have been effectively canceled. The Supreme Court’s Clerk is advising affected attorneys that they have three options:

  1. A case can be argued through WebEx the week of May 4 at a specific date and time set by the Court (Webex is a video teleconferencing service);
  2. A case can be argued at a later date (presumably when in-person oral arguments resume); or
  3. A case can be decided by the Supreme Court on the briefs alone (i.e., Rule 30(f)’d).

The parties should first attempt to reach agreement as to how their case will proceed, and then advise the clerk of their decision.  If the parties cannot agree, the Clerk will reschedule the case for argument at a later date.

At the Court of Appeals, we recently learned that cases scheduled for oral argument during the week of March 30 have either been 30(f)’d or continued to a later date. The Court of Appeals continues to proceed case-by-case as it looks at oral arguments scheduled for the week of April 13.

Appellate courts around the country are exploring different ways to proceed with oral arguments in a limited-contact world.  Do not be surprised if our State’s appellate courts explore new oral arguments ideas.

And finally, back to the Chief Justice’s catastrophic conditions order. The order’s deadline extension appears to apply to documents governed by the Appellate Rules, but filed in the trial courts. The most obvious example would be notices of appeal filed in the trial tribunal. Transcription documentation would probably be covered, but I am guessing that the timely delivery of a transcript by a court reporter would not be automatically extended by this order.

But remember: Nothing prevents a party from filing a notice of appeal or any other document “early.” And a party generally can obtain a “regular” extension of time for any deadline but a notice of appeal.  Therefore, if at all possible, my goal will be to file any notices of appeal based on the original deadline. With a pandemic developing around me, I will sleep better if my notice of appeal is filed early. What about you? Let me know in the comments below

–Beth Scherer