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Hall judge extends emergency judicial order for COVID-19
A courtroom in Hall County Superior Court, pictured in September 2020. - photo by Scott Rogers

Hall County Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin extended the judicial emergency order caused by the COVID-19 outbreak Friday, Oct. 16, and designated the Gainesville Municipal Court as an alternate facility for court business. 

Gosselin said the COVID-19 disease “continues to pose great risk to public health” and cited Gov. Brian Kemp’s renewal of the public health state of emergency two weeks ago. Gosselin’s order covers the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which includes Hall and Dawson counties. 

“Despite the implementation of and adherence to safe operating guidelines in this circuit, a number of courthouse employees have tested positive for COVID-19,” according to Gosselin’s order. 

The order said each county will only have one trial until the end of 2020, and the COVID-19 jury committee will reconvene to make adjustments before the second phase of jury trials begins in January. 

The judicial emergency order will expire at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 15. 

The court previously outlined what measures it will take to ensure safety for people participating in jury trials. 

Prospective jurors and grand jurors will receive a summons and a modified excusal affidavit that “temporarily waives the requirement of having notarized before submitting,” according to the jury committee’s plans. 

The witness will be placed in the corner of the jury box surrounded by a plexiglass shield, and the jurors will sit 6 feet apart in what is usually the courtroom audience seating. If the shield causes a glare, the witness will instead wear a clear facemask. 

The public can watch the proceedings in another room via a closed-circuit video stream. 

Gosselin signed a separate order Friday that made the Gainesville Municipal Court at 701 Queen City Parkway an alternate court facility. 

The jury committee said grand jury sessions will be held at the Gainesville Municipal Court. 

The alternative court facility order will be in effect until Nov. 15, but the court will likely renew the order.