What’s Next? Judges Discuss Court Life Post Quarantine
What’s Next? Three Metro Judges Discuss Court Life Post Quarantine
On May 14, 2020, three metro-area judges participated in a virtual webinar hosted by the Atlanta Family Law Section to discuss the reopening of the metro-Court system and the way the Superior Courts of Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb have pivoted in the midst of the pandemic.
Deadlines: The Judicial Emergency Orders issued by the Georgia Supreme Court have put a toll/stay on deadlines, but all judges stated that deadlines are currently being re-established (but can be re-evaluated on an individual basis if appropriate).
Cobb County Superior Court: Hon. Reuben Green, Chief Judge of the Superior Court of Cobb County, reported that Cobb County’s Superior Court clerk’s office is closed. Currently, everyone who comes to Court must wear a mask or face covering at this time and you will not be allowed in the Cobb County Courthouse without one. He reminded attorneys and litigants to check for local orders specific to the court.
- For example, Judge Green issued an order on May 12, 2020, which provides a memorandum and clarification for best practices and policies during this time. Judge Green urged parties to contact the assigned judge’s office if a hearing is needed and can be held virtually.
- Beginning June 1, calendars will be staggered so that hearings can be held in person if necessary (i.e. a party does not have access to technology).
- Judge Green stated that the Courtrooms have been taped off to ensure social distancing.
- He reminded everyone to be compassionate and that communication is key – if you have an issue (for example, have little kids at home or live with someone who is immuno-compromised), express that concern/issue and the Court will work with you so long as feasible.
- Appreciate there may be a delay and backlog – the Cobb County Firearms Office is reopening May 14 and there is currently a backlog of 4,000 firearms licenses in Cobb County.
- Moving forward, Judge Green would like to see a poll from the family law section to see where technology could be used in the future to benefit the practice and litigants, but notes there are times it is necessary to be in Court.
Fulton County Superior Court: Hon. Rebecca C. Rieder reported that the clerk’s office is open, hearings are being held virtually and that family violence ex parte order hearings are being held daily.
- If a signature is needed, she advised that it is best practice to not only send the document that needs to be signed, but also all supporting documents.
- The focus currently is on reopening the Court for criminal cases and Fulton County has assigned a task force to address the best practices on reopening the court safely. Only one entrance (Central Avenue) will be open to the public at this time and it is anticipated there will be a mask recommendation (but not required).
- In the meantime, Judge Rieder encouraged attorneys to continue to be patient and kind and have virtual mediations, depositions, hearings, etc., if possible, to ensure cases move forward and that parties can get the relief they need.
- Moving forward, given the time and financial benefits, Judge Rieder anticipates that all of her status conferences and other routine matters will be addressed virtually, so long as no objection, and the other family law judges in Fulton have indicated similar sentiments.
DeKalb County Superior Court: Hon. Asha F. Jackson, Chief Judge of the Superior Court of DeKalb County, reported that the clerk’s office is open, despite the loss of two of their team members to the Covid-19 virus. The goal is to limit and control the volume of people in the courthouse but beginning June 15 some in-person hearings will be resumed in DeKalb County on a staggered schedule.
- Judge Jackson reminded everyone on the Webinar that, under the newest judicial emergency order, judges can compel attendance at a virtual hearing, but they will absolutely consider an objection to a virtual hearing if a party does not have access to technology.
- The County currently plans to have masks available but has not made a final decision on whether a mask will be required.
- Moving forward, Judge Jackson anticipates that many routine court matters will have the option to be held virtually but noted there remains a benefit to having parties in person.