7A-39. Cancellation of court sessions and closing court offices; extension of statutes of limitations and other emergency orders in catastrophic conditions.

(a) Cancellation of Court Sessions, Closing Court Offices. - In response to adverse weather or other emergency situations, including catastrophic conditions, any session of any court of the General Court of Justice may be cancelled, postponed, or altered by judicial officials, and court offices may be closed by judicial branch hiring authorities, pursuant to uniform statewide guidelines prescribed by the Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. As used in this section, "catastrophic conditions" means any set of circumstances that makes it impossible or extremely hazardous for judicial officials, employees, parties, witnesses, or other persons with business before the courts to reach a courthouse, or that creates a significant risk of physical harm to persons in a courthouse, or that would otherwise convince a reasonable person to avoid traveling to or being in a courthouse.

(b) Authority of Chief Justice. - When the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court determines and declares that catastrophic conditions exist or have existed in one or more counties of the State, the Chief Justice may by order entered pursuant to this subsection:

(1) Extend, to a date certain no fewer than 10 days after the effective date of the order, the time or period of limitation within which pleadings, motions, notices, and other documents and papers may be timely filed and other acts may be timely done in civil actions, criminal actions, estates, and special proceedings in each county named in the order. The Chief Justice may enter an order under this subsection during the catastrophic conditions or at any time after such conditions have ceased to exist. The order shall be in writing and shall become effective for each affected county upon the date set forth in the order, and if no date is set forth in the order, then upon the date the order is signed by the Chief Justice.

(2) Issue any emergency directives that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, are necessary to ensure the continuing operation of essential trial or appellate court functions, including the designation or assignment of judicial officials who may be authorized to act in the general or specific matters stated in the emergency order, and the designation of the county or counties and specific locations within the State where such matters may be heard, conducted, or otherwise transacted. The Chief Justice may enter such emergency orders under this subsection in response to existing or impending catastrophic conditions or their consequences. An emergency order under this subsection shall expire the sooner of the date stated in the order, or 30 days from issuance of the order, but the order may be extended in whole or in part by the Chief Justice for additional 30-day periods if the Chief Justice determines that the directives remain necessary.

(c) In Chambers Jurisdiction Not Affected. - Nothing in this section prohibits a judge or other judicial officer from exercising, during adverse weather or other emergency situations, including catastrophic conditions, any in chambers or ex parte jurisdiction conferred by law upon that judge or judicial officer, as provided by law. The effectiveness of any such exercise shall not be affected by a determination by the Chief Justice that catastrophic conditions existed at the time it was exercised.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to abrogate or diminish the inherent judicial powers of the Chief Justice or the Judicial Branch. (2000-166, s. 1; 2006-187, s. 6; 2009-516, s. 11.)