Georgia chief justice suspends jury trials again because of virus surge

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

Because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases statewide, Georgia’s chief justice has once again suspended jury trials.

In October, Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton lifted a suspension of jury trials that had been in place since March, so long as local jurisdictions put plans in place on how to conduct jury trials safely and in accordance with health guidelines. Some counties had started to do that.

But the novel coronavirus’s continuous and dangerous spread statewide has changed that for now, Melton said Tuesday. “With the numbers being as high as they are, we didn’t want to test our best planning against that scenario.”

In a recently signed order, Melton resumed the suspension of jury trials “until at least February.”

The order also urged courts to use technology when practical to conduct remote judicial proceedings as a safer alternative to in-person hearings.

“We are hopeful that with the advent of vaccines and their widespread availability, the end of the virus is in sight and sometime in the coming months, we will be able to return to a robust schedule of jury trials and all court functions,” Melton said. “But now is not the time for full-blown operations.”

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