Dear Courts Journal Readers,
June 2020 saw the continuing pandemic coupled with a state budget crisis and outcries for social and civil justice reform. Any one of these issues alone would be significant, but in combination they pose even greater challenges for our judiciary and all public servants. Yet, we continue to see examples of courts rising to this historic moment with action and imagination. The Statewide Judicial Emergency Order was extended to July 12 by Chief Justice Melton with a request that the Judicial COVID-19 Task Force develop model reopening orders and in return, the Task Force has been working non-stop to do just that and is very close to completing reopening guidelines for every class of court. The JC/AOC staff created a website to host every circuit’s reopening orders and guidelines along with a Reopening Guide in order to prepare for an increase in court business and to keep everyone safe. The Judicial Council of Georgia continues to meet regularly via Zoom to discuss ways to open courts more fully while ensuring safety.
The Georgia legislative session ended on Friday, June 26, 2020, and the JC/AOC legislative updates and bill summaries are here. A Final Enacted Legislation Report will be published after the Governor’s signing deadline (August 5). New Judicial Council member, Dawn Jones, was sworn in by the Chief Justice on June 15, 2020 to represent the State Bar of Georgia as a non-voting member. She was also sworn in as the president of the State Bar on June 15, 2020. Her acceptance speech via Zoom and YouTube was touching, inspiring, and joyful and you can watch it here. We also did a short interview with President Jones. The first Council of Municipal Court Judges Annual Business Meeting to be held by Zoom was June 19, 2020 and Judge Willie Weaver, Sr. was sworn in as President of the council by Chief Judge Willie Lockette, Dougherty Judicial Circuit Superior Court. A Judicial Council Ad Hoc Committee on Improving Community Access to Legal Resources was created by Supreme Court order on June 9 and the new committee held its first meeting on June 23, 2020. This committee was announced during Chief Justice Melton’s State of the Judiciary speech in February and Mercer Law School will be providing pro bono staffing support.
Social distancing for courts is being achieved by using creative venues throughout Georgia. Muscogee State Court Judges Andy Prather and Ben Richardson recently held arraignment hearings at an ice rink. Not to be outdone, the State Court of Forsyth County recently held arraignments in a rodeo arena. Probate Court Judge Edith Grant from Hancock County passed away, and the Chief Justice provided a lovely quote for an article about her impact in Georgia and we revisited this History Makers video that really emphasizes her strength in 1968. A number of Georgia judges are hosting virtual internships for law students this summer and we talked to a few of them for an article of our own. J4C also has an intern this summer under a program run by the Barton Center at Emory University.
Judge Walter Davis of the State-wide Business Court and Judicial Council member joined our AOC staff meeting this month. We learned about a new Veteran’s Court in the Conasauga Circuit and Superior Court Judge David Cannon wrote an article urging continued support for Accountability Courts. Two pop-up Legal/Record Restriction Clinics were held in June hosted by the A2J staff, and in partnership with @gajustice, @StateBarofGA, and the local solicitor/DA offices for the Augusta area. The clinic was made possible by a grant from the State Justice Institute and the JC/AOC provided a report about such clinics at a June Zoom SJI Board meeting.
We are proud to announce the 2020 Hines Awards which go to Special Assistant Attorney General of Forsyth County Afiya F. Hinkson, and Rockdale DFCS Case Manager Charles Williams. Both are exemplary models of professionalism representing Georgia’s child welfare system. We made videos based on a real-life story that each of them shared with us. A former J4C committee member wrote a story about the impact that adverse childhood experiences have in Georgia. The YLD of the State Bar honored @JudgeSaraDoyle and @JudgeDillard with their annual awards.
Congratulations are also in order for Senior Judge Adele Grubbs of Cobb County Superior Court; Retired Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane of Fulton County Superior Court; and Judge Pinkie Toomer of the Fulton County Probate Court as they received Lifetime Achievement Awards, and Chief Magistrate Judge Rizza O’Connor of Toombs County received an On the Rise Award. And we’ll close with a small event held by Judge Leonard and Judge Kell of the Cobb Circuit with others by Zoom who celebrated a well-known CSO who just graduated from law school.
Your JC/AOC Courts Journal team: Michelle Barclay, Keia Evans, Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez, Bruce Shaw, and our contractor, John Ramspott.