On Monday, according to court records, solicitor’s office employee Mia McLean, who is named in the complaint, emailed a court administrative employee saying, “Court for the month of January has been cancelled. Judge Leary will not be needing an interpreter.”
The complaint says employees Melissa Sifuentes-Flores and Sherie Brown then posted a sign on a courtroom door canceling Leary’s arraignment calendar for Jan. 3, which contained 25 cases including several with domestic violence charges.
Later that day, Whiteside told the judges in a memo that about 30% of his staff was out due to COVID-19 cases or exposures.
“I do not want to have a super spreader event caused by packing a court room with large numbers of people,” he said.
Whiteside in the memo decreed that no arraignments would be held this month, according to court documents. But the next day, he worked out a plan with the court to proceed with calendars of 15 or fewer arraignments, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Whiteside, who was quarantining Friday, said virtual court was not conducted Monday because of a misunderstanding about getting links.
About 300 people come through state court in a day, including police officers who respond to incidents all over the county, he said.
“There was no intent to close the court,” he said. “The intent was to hopefully have virtual. ...My job is to protect people.”
Leary went through her arraignment calendar Friday and three assistant solicitors showed up, Britt said.
A hearing on the contempt motion will be scheduled, Britt said. Each person found in contempt faces fines of up to $1,000 or prison sentences of up to 20 days for each violation.