Atlanta, March 14, 2020 – Chief Justice Harold D. Melton today declared a Statewide Judicial Emergency effective immediately due to the spread of the coronavirus throughout Georgia “and the potential infection of those who work in or are required to appear in our courts.”
The order states that courts “should remain open to address essential functions, and in particular courts should give priority to matters defined as those necessary to protect health, safety, and liberty of individuals.” The order lists the matters courts should prioritize, which including domestic abuse restraining orders, juvenile court delinquency detention hearings and emergency removal matters, mental health commitment hearings, and cases “where an immediate liberty or safety concern is present requiring the attention of the court as soon as the court is available.”
“Following Governor Kemp’s declaration today of a Public Health State of Emergency, I am directing the judicial branch of government to suspend all but essential court functions,” Chief Justice Melton said. “These critical matters will remain a priority in our courts.”
Criminal trials in which a jury already has been empaneled “shall continue to conclusion, unless good cause exists to suspend the trial or declare a mistrial,” the order states.
During the period of the order, which will terminate April 13 unless extended, the order suspends and grants relief from a number of judicial deadlines, such as the “time within which to issue a warrant” and the “time within which to hold a commitment hearing.”
The order states that, “To the extent court proceedings are held, they should be done in a manner to limit the risk of exposure, where possible, such as videoconferencing.”
ORDER DECLARING STATEWIDE JUDICIAL EMERGENCY