Amendment to Order declaring Judicial Emergency
Pursuant to Declarations of Public Health Emergency by the President of the United States and the Governor and a Declaration of Judicial Emergency issued by the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, the Superior Court Judges of the Mountain Judicial Circuit issued a Declaration of Judicial Emergency applicable to all counties and courts of the Mountain Judicial Circuit. Whereas, the Judges of the Mountain Judicial Circuit having determined that specific provision should be made for the manner of conduct of court business so as to limit to the extent possible the possibility of transmission of the COVID-19Virus in accordance with the recommendations of public health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control published guidelines. Therefore, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 38-3-61, Chief Judge Russell W. Smith and Judge B. Chan Caudell of the Mountain Judicial Circuit, Superior Courts of Habersham, Rabun, and Stephens counties do hereby amend the prior Declaration and Order entered on March 14, 2020, by adding the following: 1. With regard to both civil and criminal courtroom proceedings: a) All persons shall wash their hands with soap and water immediately prior to entering the courtroom. If hand-washing stations are available in the Amendment to Declaration of Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit Page 5 of5 outside the courthouse, they shall be used prior to entry into the courthouse. b) Litigants, attorneys and Court personnel may wear gloves and/or a facemask in the courtroom if they wish to do so. c) With respect to the District Attorney and the Public Defender, only the attorney responsible for the matter before the Court and one other staff member (whether attorney or non-attorney) may be present in the courtroom at any given time. Likewise any private attorney appearing in a civil or criminal matter may have the lead counsel and one other staff person (whether attorney or non-attorney) in the courtroom at any one time. d) Only the Department of Community Supervision officer responsible for the matter before the court shall be present in the courtroom at any given time. e) All persons in attendance shall, to the extent possible sit or stand at least six feet in each direction from each other person in the courtroom. f) Any witnesses shall testify from a location other than the current location of the witness box which, in elch county, is located much closer than the recommended safe distance to the Court Reporter. For example, the witness may testify from their seat in the courtroom (if the rule of sequestration has not been invoked), from an appropriate location in the jury box, or in another location where a seat may be positioned for them. g) Attorneys shall not be permitted to approach a witness who is testifying. Amendment to Declaration of Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit Page 5 of 5h) To the extent practicable, attorneys shall have any documents that they intend to tender into evidence marked and scanned in PDF format so that they can be shared and displayed without the necessity of passing the documents between the attorneys and the court. If a document is admitted into evidence, a scanned copy will be printed out by the reporter for inclusion with the record. i) Hand Sanitizer shall be available at each counsel table. j) With notice and approval of the court, family members, friends or interested members of the public may designate someone present in the courtroom to broadcast the proceedings to them by phone or video. k) Any party, attorney or witness may appear in court via video conference (e.g. Skype or the like) or telephone upon request, including any person required to “shelter in place” by virtue of the Order of the Governor. Persons who would be considered to be in a “high-risk” category if they contract the virus (persons more than 60 years of age or with certain pre-existing medical conditions are encouraged to do so. 1) All persons who intend to enter a courtroom and attend any proceeding, including parties, attorneys, witnesses and any other persons shall contact the office of the clerk or the assigned judge (or if they have not had notice of this order before appearing at the courthouse, they shall notify the security officer stationed at the courthouse entrance) if: I. They are now or have in the 14 previous days experienced any symptoms of illness, even mild symptoms. I I ll. They have had contact with any Coronavirus (COVID-19) positive Amendment to Declaration of Judicial Emergency Mountain Judicial Circuit Page 5 of 5 individuals. 111. If they or someone with whom they have had contact has been in any of the following countries or regions within the last 14 days: State of Washington, New Rochelle, New York, China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran, or Egypt. IV. If they have been advised to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, or health agency. v. Any such affected persons having matters before the Court shall be permitted to participate in any proceedings by video conference pursuant to U.S.C.R 9.2 (or the applicable rule of such other court) or by telephone. VI. In the event that any party, witness or attorney becomes aware that any person in attendance in court is later diagnosed with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) or advised to self-quarantine as a result of presumptive symptoms or contact with an infected individual, they shall notify the court, opposing counsel, and the office of the clerk so that notice may be provided to such other persons in attendance to the extent possible. It is ordered that the Sheriffs of Habersham County, Rabun County, and Stephens County shall post this order on their public notification site and in the courthouse; It is further ordered that the undersigned shall immediately notify and serve Chief Justice Harold D. Melton of the Supreme Court of Georgia with a copy of this Order, such service to be accomplished via email to Tee Barnes, the Clerk of the Amemdrrrerrt to Declaration of Judicial Elllergency Mountain Judicial Circuit Pages of Supreme Court of Georgia, at [email protected] It is further ordered that the undersigned shall immediately notify and serve a copy of the order on the judges and clerks of all courts sitting within the jurisdictions affected and on the clerks of the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court, such service to be accomplished through reasonable means to assure expeditious receipt; and it is further ordered that the undersigned shall give notice of the issuance of this order to the affected parties, counsel for the affected parties, and the public.