Georgia Federal and State Courts Issue Emergency Orders to Address COVID-19
Georgia Supreme Court Declares Statewide Judicial Emergency to Address COVID-19
On March 14, 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the Supreme Court of Georgia declared a Statewide Judicial Emergency. Under the Order, courts are to remain open only to address “essential functions,” and proceedings should be conducted via telephone or video conference as much as possible. Courts have been instructed to prioritize the following: (1) cases related to immediate liberty or safety concerns; (2) criminal court search warrants, initial appearances, and bond reviews; (3) domestic abuse protective orders; (4) juvenile court hearings; and (5) mental health commitment hearings.
Additionally, the Order suspended all jury trials and tolled filing requirements including statutes of limitations, discovery deadlines, and appellate deadlines. Several counties also have issued Orders mirroring, clarifying, and expanding on the statewide Order. On April 6, 2020, the Supreme Court Amended the Order to extend the Judicial Emergency through May 13, 2020.
On May 11, 2020, the Supreme Court again amended its Order and extended the Judicial Emergency through Friday June 12, 2020. The Court’s latest Amendment extended all the prior restrictions, but it granted individual Judges the ability to re-impose deadlines, except those related to juries and grand juries, on a case-by-case basis. However, any newly established deadlines must be in writing and consider both public and individual health concerns.
Federal District Courts in Georgia Issue General Orders to Address COVID-19
On March 16, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, which includes Atlanta and the surrounding area, issued a General Order concerning court operations to address the exigent circumstances created by COVID-19. The Order suspended all jury trials and all grand juries. It also encouraged individual judges to employ remote audio and visual capabilities as much as possible. The Order did not alter any pending deadlines in civil cases or suspend any statutes of limitations. The Order was amended on March 30, 2020, extending the new procedures through May 15, 2020. The Court has also implemented some restrictions on public access to the courthouses and in-person filings.
On March 20, 2020 the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia issued a General Order canceling all hearings in criminal cases except for those mandated by the U.S. Constitution, such as initial appearances. These cancellations are in place through May 16, 2020. On March 30, 2020, the Court entered a General Order expanding the use of video technology for remaining criminal hearings. At this time, the Court has not issued any orders altering any pending deadlines in civil cases. The Court has also implemented some restrictions on public access to the courthouses and in-person filings.
On March 17, 2020 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia issued a General Order concerning Court operations under the current exigent circumstances. The Order limits entry into the courthouse for non-criminal matters, and it prohibits entry by individuals with certain travel history. On March 30, 2020, the Court entered an additional order expanding the use of video technology for certain criminal matters and granting significant discretion to individuals judges to manage their dockets as needed.
For more information about orders issued by Georgia’s state and federal courts, or about any of the new developments in employment-related laws as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, please refer to the HGRS LLP Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center, at www.hgrslaw.com, or contact our firm at (404) 442-8776.