On Thursday morning, Hurricane Florence began its assault on the coast of the Carolinas.
The storm is projected to bring winds of up to 80 mph and storm surges as high as 13 feet to the region in the coming days. But it has already affected the legal community in the area by prompting the closure of the region’s courts and law schools.
State courts had already announced numerous shutdowns across the Carolinas as of Wednesday afternoon. North Carolina’s state judicial branch reported that courts in at least 59 counties, most of them in the state’s eastern half, were closed or had plans to close.
Many of the closures had taken effect on Wednesday, but some courts were scheduled to close on Thursday or Friday. The state’s judicial branch has been updating an information page and its Twitter page as new closures are announced, and where relevant, the site also provides information about alternative court locations.
In South Carolina, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty issued a directive on Tuesday indicating that court proceedings in a number of counties would be canceled for Wednesday. The order also said that court proceedings would also be canceled in any counties where state and county government offices were closed, and would only resume once those offices reopen.
The chief justice said up-to-date information on those office closings would be compiled by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, which was maintaining a website. The state agency listed 19 counties with offices that had either closed or were scheduled to close early on Thursday.
In an interview on Wednesday, Roger Young, the chief administrative judge for the South Carolina Business Court in Charleston, said that effectively all courthouses in the state east of I-95 were already closed. He also noted that, with the hurricane’s path tracking in a more southwesterly direction than originally predicted, additional courts in the state would likely be impacted as well.
Many of the federal courthouses in the Carolinas were also temporarily shuttered in anticipation of Florence.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina closed three of its six locations on Wednesday, shutting down courthouses in Greenville, New Bern and Wilmington. Those three courthouses plus the Raleigh and Elizabeth City locations were also scheduled to be closed on Thursday and Friday. The Eastern District is providing further updates on its website.
The Western District of North Carolina, meanwhile, had plans to close at noon on Friday but remain open on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Frank Johns, clerk of the district court. He said that schedule would apply to both district and bankruptcy courts.
In South Carolina, the federal district court announced the closure of its Charleston location starting on Tuesday and continuing until further notice. The federal courthouse in Florence, South Carolina, was also expected to close but not until Thursday, and the district also announced that it would cancel U.S. Central Violations Bureau matters scheduled to take place on Friday in Columbia.
Law schools in the Carolinas have also closed their doors.
The University of North Carolina School of Law, canceled classes for through the week starting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday. As of earlier this week, North Carolina Central University School of Law was also suspending classes through Friday. Wake Forest University School of Law has announced it will close its facilities through the weekend, and Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law has stopped classes through the week.
In South Carolina, the Charleston School of Law, which is directly in the storm’s path, suspended its operations at noon on Tuesday and does not plan to reopen again until Sept. 17.
Rebekah Mintzer and Karen Sloan contributed reporting to this story.