Georgia courts urged to reevaluate resuming jury trials

As COVID-19 continue to rise in Georgia, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Martin is urging the state’s courts to reevaluate resuming jury trials and other in-person court proceedings.

In a statement Wednesday, Melton said judges may need to reverse court on the in-person hearings if the spread of the virus prevents them from doing so safely.

Melton made the statement after signing his ninth order extending the statewide judicial emergency he first announced March 14, 2020 due to the pandemic. He signed similar orders in September, October and last month authorizing judges to resume grand jury proceedings and jury trials as long as courts followed strict public health guidelines.

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“While this order does not impose a blanket shutdown of non-essential in-person proceedings, courts should remain vigilant of changing COVID-19 conditions and be prepared to suspend jury trials as necessary and to reconsider grand jury proceedings as well,” the order says.

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“For those in-person proceedings courts decide to continue, they should do so only if they can maintain the safety of all participants,” Melton said.

The order also urged courts to conduct proceedings remotely if possible. “We recognize there is such a thing as Zoom fatigue,” the Chief Justice said. “But we urge people not to get weary just yet. Now is not the time to relax, especially as we anticipate the arrival of vaccinations in the next few months.”

The latest order extends the judicial emergency another 30 days to Jan. 8.

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