The Alcovy Judicial Circuit, which incorporates Walton County Superior Court, is amending its court practices at least for the next two weeks in the light of a Judicial Emergency Order issued by Chief Justice Harold D Melton.
“We’re updating the courts’ response to the present situation since Chief Justice Melton’s issuance of a Judicial Emergency Order,” said Alcovy Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge John M. Ott. “On the civil side, we’ll attempt to accommodate attorneys who need to have their cases heard on a case by case determination, if both sides agree. On the criminal side, we will only be handling jail cases for those inmates who wish to have their cases resolved. All jury trials will be continued until the Judicial Emergency Order is lifted.”
On Friday, it was noted that except for a large jury trial which was being continued, court in Walton County would go on in accordance with the already established court calendar. In the light of Saturday’s Emergency Order from Justice Melton, that is no longer the case.
The Alcovy Judicial Circuit encompasses both Walton and Newton counties.
Walton County Probate Court Judge Bruce Wright said there will be no cases in the Probate Court at this time, but gun permits will still be processed.
“We will not have any traffic court until after April 13. We also have temporarily suspended the processing of passport applications,” Wright said. “We will continue to process gun permits.”
The following is the statewide Judicial Emergency order from Chief Justice Harold D. Melton on March 14, 2020
Chief Justice Harold D. Melton today declared a Statewide Judicial Emergency effective immediately due to the spread of the coronavirus throughout Georgia “and the potential infection of those who work in or are required to appear in our courts.”
The order states that courts “should remain open to address essential functions, and in particular courts should give priority to matters defined as those necessary to protect health, safety, and liberty of individuals.” The order lists the matters courts should prioritize, which including domestic abuse restraining orders, juvenile court delinquency detention hearings and emergency removal matters, mental health commitment hearings, and cases “where an immediate liberty or safety concern is present requiring the attention of the court as soon as the court is available.”
“Following Governor Kemp’s declaration today of a Public Health State of Emergency, I am directing the judicial branch of government to suspend all but essential court functions,” Chief Justice Melton said. “These critical matters will remain a priority in our courts.”
Criminal trials in which a jury already has been empaneled “shall continue to conclusion, unless good cause exists to suspend the trial or declare a mistrial,” the order states.
During the period of the order, which will terminate April 13 unless extended, the order suspends and grants relief from a number of judicial deadlines, such as the “time within which to issue a warrant” and the “time within which to hold a commitment hearing.”
The order states that, “To the extent court proceedings are held, they should be done in a manner to limit the risk of exposure, where possible, such as videoconferencing.”