The Judicial Council of Georgia met by videoconference on June 4th to discuss the 15th extension of the Statewide Judicial Emergency with the expectation that it will expire on June 30, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. On June 22, Governor Kemp announced the Public Health Emergency will end on July 1, 2021, at 12:00 a.m. When that judicial emergency expires, court operations all over the state will return to normal–under the local control of the Chief Superior Court Judge of each judicial circuit who may enter a local judicial emergency order. During that same emergency session, Chief Justice Melton was honored as he chaired what was his final Judicial Council meeting. On June 22, an additional order was signed allowing Georgia’s courts to continue to conduct certain court proceedings remotely, even though the Statewide Judicial Emergency will end June 30.
July 2021 will bring a change in leadership to the Supreme Court of Georgia and the Judicial Council of Georgia when Presiding Justice Nahmias will take on the role of Chief Justice and Justice Boggs will become the Presiding Justice. June gave many groups the opportunity to honor Chief Justice Melton, who is retiring from the Court on July 1, including this farewell from his Supreme Court colleagues. Articles about Presiding Justice Nahmias were written about his speech to Atlanta Bar members along with this lovely profile of him. We also said goodbye to State Bar of Georgia President, Dawn Jones (also a Judicial Council member), who managed an especially challenging year with grace, and we look forward to working with new State Bar President Elizabeth Fite (interview pending for July). The State Bar of Georgia held its first-ever hybrid Annual Meeting in mid-June to great success, and it was live streamed for those at home and may still be viewed on the Bar’s Youtube channel. Chief Justice Melton was honored with the Spirit of Justice Award presented by the State Bar’s Judicial Section and Superior Court Judge Dear Jackson was also honored for her grace in leadership as the outgoing chair. The Hines Awards and Lovett Awards were given once again at the State Bar Annual Meeting to worthy servant leaders in the Child Welfare profession.
We have updated our Judicial Council members photo roster, which now includes Chief Judge Rickman and Vice Chief Judge Mercier after their wonderful Court of Appeals investiture ceremony. Justice McMillian and Justice LaGrua were profiled for the UGA magazine. Justice LaGrua also recently received the Women of Achievement Award from the Atlanta Bar Association. The portrait of Court of Appeals Judge Harris Adams was unveiled this month. Judge Miller shared pictures from her graduation address to Mercer University School of Law. The Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism announced its 21st Annual Justice Robert Benham Awards for Community Service at a ceremony that was live-streamed on June 26th.
The Council of State Court Judges had a great profile of Council President Judge Alvin Wong. Judge Lori Duff and Judge JaDawnya Baker were elected & sworn-in (by Justice Carol Hunstein) as President and President-Elect of the Council of Municipal Court Judges of Georgia. We are enjoying covering accountability court graduations with our summer intern (most recently in Forsyth and Barrow counties) which are often hybrid now. Justice Charlie Bethel, retired Justice Robert Benham, and JC/AOC’s Tabitha Ponder and Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez enjoyed hosting a Diversity Bars meeting and getting to know Executive Director Damon Elmore at the State Bar of Georgia’s Annual Meeting. JC/AOC’s CTO Ben Luke visited Evans County recently to meet with probate court judges and staff to learn more about how they use PCIS, gathering feedback to improve the product. This visit resulted in fruitcakes for their colleagues. The Judicial Council’s Grants Committee met and voted to distribute $2,087,933 to support civil legal services for victims of Domestic Violence and for Kinship Care families. The Judicial Council’s Access to Justice Committee’s (with many sponsors) Virtual Record Restriction Clinics continue and we learned that Cobb County has a standing “Second Chance Desk” which we hope to visit next month. Bibb County Superior Court Judge Connie L. Williford was appointed to the Georgia Child Support Commission by Governor Kemp and was sworn in on Thursday, June 3rd, by Juvenile Court Judge and Child Support Commission Chair, R. Michael Key. We leave you with this Department of Justice letter urging eviction diversion strategies by local courts and notice about Supreme Court ADR Rule changes which become effective on July 1.