Covid-19 Judicial Update: The Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Extends Judicial Emergency
Updated: Apr 9
On March 14, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia issued the Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency, wherein the Supreme Court directed the various courts in the state to remain open to primarily address essential functions. In particular, the courts should give priority to matters necessary to protect health, safety, and liberty of individuals. The Supreme Court also extended numerous deadlines, such as the time to respond to discovery, until April 13, 2020.
Due to the continuing statewide emergency because of the Covid-19 virus, on April 6, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia issued the Order Extending Declaration of Statewide Judicial Emergency, wherein the prior deadline was extended until May 13, 2020. In the recent Order, the Chief Justice encouraged courts and litigants in matters not deemed essential functions to proceed to the extent feasible and consistent with public health guidance. For example, using teleconferences and video conferences to reduce the backlog of cases when the judicial emergency ends.
While access to the courts is limited during this crisis, they remain open and Marple Rubin Family Law will continue to do all that we can to move your case forward to a resolution. We anticipate a major backlog of cases when the courts reopen that may further delay the resolution of your matter. Further, for those contemplating new cases, such as divorces or support modifications, we encourage you to reach out to us now so that we can take the appropriate steps to be ready when the courts reopen so your case is not delayed. This includes filing your case now so that we can obtain a hearing as soon as possible after the courts reopen. If possible, we will also ask the courts to schedule a teleconference or videoconference to address urgent matters as soon as possible.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your legal team for clarification on your matter or reach out to us to schedule a consultation to discuss your options during this crisis.
What is the Judicial Emergency Act?
This Act enables an authorized judicial official to declare a judicial emergency under certain circumstances. Authorized judicial official means the chief justice of the state supreme court; the chief judge of the state court of appeals; a chief judge of a state superior court judicial circuit; or the replacement for or successor to any of these officials should such officials become incapacitated or otherwise unable to act. “Judicial emergency” means a state of emergency declared by the governor; a public health emergency as defined under state law; a local emergency as defined under state law; or such other serious emergency when, as determined by an authorized judicial official, the emergency substantially endangers or infringes upon the normal functioning of the judicial system, the ability of people to avail themselves of the judicial system, or the ability of litigants or others to have access to the courts or to meet schedules or time deadlines imposed by court order or rule, statute, or administrative rule or regulation.
What does it mean?
The order encourages courts to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing to avoid face-to at the courthouse. Georgia courts will only address cases 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. The order encourages courts to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing to avoid face-to-face gatherings at the courthouse.
ORDER EXTENDING DECLARATION OF STATEWIDE JUDICIAL EMERGENCY
Pursuant to OCGA § 38-3-61, and due to the continuing statewide emergency
involving the transmission of Coronavirus/COVID-19, the Honorable Harold D.
Melton, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia, does hereby extend the
March 14, 2020 (amended) Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency, which
would have expired on April 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., until Wednesday, May 13,
2020, at 11:59 p.m., unless otherwise further modified or extended. The Chief
Justice will provide notice as to the expected termination of the Order at least
one week in advance to allow courts to plan the transition to fuller operations.
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. With regard to all matters in this challenging time, all
lawyers are reminded of their obligations of professionalism. It is ordered,
pursuant to OCGA § 38-3-63, that notice and service of a copy of this Order shall
immediately be sent to the judges and clerks of all courts in this State and to the
clerk of the Georgia Court of Appeals, such service to be accomplished through
means to assure expeditious receipt, which include electronic means; and It is
further ordered that notice shall also be sent to the media, the State Bar of
Georgia, and the officials and entities listed below and shall constitute sufficient
notice of the issuance of this Order to the affected parties, counsel for the
affected parties, and the public. (ORDERED APRIL 6, 2020)