Georgia Chief Justice extends 'judicial emergency' order another month

State trials and other non-emergency court matters will continue to be placed on hold as the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court extended the judicial emergency decree on Monday through May 13.

Chief Justice Harold D. Melton extended the order a month from the original end date of April 13. The state courts will only take up matters that are critical or “essential” to protect the “health, safety, and liberty of individuals.” Those include warrants and restraining orders.

All criminal trials and matters requiring a jury have been suspended through the end of the order.

Courts are encouraged to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing to avoid meeting in person at the courthouse.

“With regard to matters not deemed essential functions under the Statewide Judicial Emergency Order, courts and litigants are encouraged to proceed to the extent feasible and consistent with public health guidance, for example through the use of teleconferences and videoconferences, to reduce backlogs when the judicial emergency ends,” the order states.

“The threat of this virus is difficult for everyone,” Chief Justice Melton said. “Court personnel are no exception. We have to ensure that they can safely fulfill their mission.”

“I also want to encourage courts and counsel in nonessential matters to move those matters forward as much as possible and practicable to maintain the flow. We should do what we can safely do during this time to keep the courts’ backlog from growing too large.”

The order also reminds lawyers to abide by their “obligations of professionalism” and to be more accommodating of opposing counsel.

On the expiration of the order, Chief Justice Melton said he would give “at least one week in advance to allow courts to plan the transition to fuller operations.”