Chief justice again extends judicial emergency due to pandemic

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton  (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Georgia’s state of judicial emergency will again be extended, although the shutdown of jury trials and grand jury proceedings cannot last much longer, Chief Justice Harold Melton said Tuesday.

This marks the fifth time the emergency has been necessary since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is now extended until Sept. 10.

Melton said “most in-court proceedings compel the attendance of various individuals rather than allowing them to decide how best to protect their own health.” And the virus continues to spread in Georgia, he noted.

But there are limits to grinding most of the state’s judicial system to a halt, Melton said.

”This broad prohibition cannot last too much longer, even if the pandemic continues, because the judicial system, and the criminal justice system in particular, must have some capacity to resolve cases by indictment and trial,” he said.

ExploreComplete Coverage: Coronavirus in Georgia

A task force is determining whether grand jury and jury trial proceedings could safely be conducted even in areas where levels of COVID-19 are high, Melton said. This could mean grand jury proceedings and jury selection could be done remotely, he said.

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