Greetings Courts Journal Readers:
The courts in Georgia press on. The Statewide Judicial Emergency Order was extended until June 12, 2020 with the continued goal to ‘stay open and keep people safe’ during this pandemic (as two additional courts had to at least partially close due to virus exposure). With the mission to assist courts in conducting remote proceedings and to restore more in-court proceedings, a new Judicial COVID -19 Task Force was created by Supreme Court order on May 14, 2020. With a full agenda, the first meeting of the Task Force took place on May 19 chaired by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua (there is a good profile of Judge LaGrua in the April 2020 State Bar Journal). We interviewed Judge Melanie Bell (a member of the Task Force who recently recovered from COVID-19). The Good Judgement Podcast did several episodes in May addressing the innovation and creativity that judges and courts have taken on during this time, including this wonderful interview with our Chief Justice, but also a “do not miss” episode where you can hear Judge Tain Kell rapping to a Sir Mix a Lot beat. Justice Carla McMillian talked about her experience being sworn into the Supreme Court of Georgia during the pandemic on this podcast.
We have an article written by our wonderful new JC/AOC employee, Cheryl Karounos, about Chief Justice Melton holding a series of separate town halls with the State Court Judges, Municipal Court Judges, and Superior Court Clerks. Municipal Court Judges Rashida Oliver of East Point and Judge Ryan Hope of Athens also participated in a podcast with former municipal Court Judge Leslie Spornberger during which they talked about the efficiencies they have had to embrace with technology and how much they have learned in such a short time. Before COVID-19, we interviewed Judge Hope about the use of his court’s text notification system to notify litigants about upcoming court dates, now Judge Hope’s court is using that same text notification system as a way to notify his community about the court’s current status (which he talks about on the podcast episode). We learned a while back that Chief Magistrate Court Judge Cassandra Kirk’s court has also begun using a court notification text system.
Images from the three town halls hosted by Chief Justice Melton and Presiding Justice Nahmias
The Court of Appeals successfully held their first virtual argument on May 5. State Court Judge Thacker of Spalding County and Judge Sapp of Chatham County had news stories about their use of technology in their courtrooms. Judge Cannon of the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit has been streaming his hearings via Vimeo. We’ve created a summary of our short interviews about individual judges and courts pivoting to technology. We learned that the CJCJ swore in new officers by Zoom. The CPCJ had 78 of their judges complete a specially created traffic certificate program. The JC/AOC staffed virtual meetings this month, including Access to Justice with Justice Charlie Bethel as Chair and a Justice for Children Committee meeting with Justice David Nahmias as Chair.
JC/AOC staff celebrated Public Service Recognition Week (May 3-9) and we also have had a month-long celebration of Law Day as it is the 100th year anniversary of the 19th Amendment (Women’s Suffrage). We kicked off on May 1 with a message from our Chief Justice and a “homemade” video of the women justices on the Georgia Supreme Court and women judges on the Judicial Council of Georgia. Then we continued our celebration with individual judges reading a selection of books curated by our staff and Georgia DOE to teach small civics lessons, a summary is here. We thank Justice Sarah Warren, Justice Carla McMillian, Judge Juliette Scales, Judge Kelli Wolk, Judge Berryl Anderson, Judge Lisa Jones, Judge Sara Doyle, Judge Verda Colvin, Judge Ken Hodges, Judge Brenda Trammel, Judge Alison Burleson, Judge Amanda Petty, Judge Kathryn Powers, Judge Peggy Walker, and Judge Rachelle Carnesale for participating. We also talked to Judge Cindy Morris about the world of dispute resolution before and during COVID-19.
We’ll close out with three stories that made us smile. Judge Jason Deal and Judge Clint Bearden conducted a moving accountability court graduation via zoom last week with 68 people in attendance. Judge Robert Leonard performed a social distancing wedding and Judge Reuben Green conducted an adoption proceeding by Zoom from his office. We also talked to Judge Reuben Green about his personal experience as a foster and adoptive parent.
Please stay safe. Call on us anytime. Talk to you in June.
Your JC/AOC Courts Journal team: Michelle Barclay, Keia Evans, Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez, Bruce Shaw, and our contractor, John Ramspott.