Citing the ongoing rise in the spread of COVID-19, State Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced today that all in-person court hearings are postponed for 30 days.
The announcement came Friday afternoon as the state reported more than 7,500 new cases of COVID-19 across the state today, quickly outdistancing the 6,000-plus cases reported per day earlier in the week.
Beasley noted that most courthouses enter a slow period from mid-December through the first of the year. Further reducing traffic in court facilities will hopefully slow some of the spread, she said in a press release. Masks, hand sanitizing stations and social distancing are already required in all 100 courts across the state.
Columbus County has been holding traffic and district court at the former Hallsboro Middle School since the summer. Thousands of backlogged cases have moved through the satellite court since it opened. The model was possibly the first of its kind in the state, using a closed school, and is being considered by other counties.
Clerk of Superior Court Jess Hill and Superior Court Judge Douglas Sasser brokered the deal between the county and the schools due to concerns about overcrowding at the Courthouse Annex in Whiteville.
Before the recent surge, court officials hoped to resume jury trials in January.
We have reached out to Hill for further comment.