Superior Court judges for Hall and Dawson counties will be on a rotation starting Tuesday, March 17, with staff working remotely, according to an updated court memo regarding coronavirus response measures amid the statewide judicial emergency.
The memo from Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin came late Monday, March 16, outlining how the various courts will function.
Gosselin, Judge Bonnie Oliver and Judge Jason Deal will be on rotation for Superior Court duties through the week, with Judge Clint Bearden handling Dawson County.
Superior Court Judge Andrew Fuller will be serving as a floating judge and backup for Superior Court and Magistrate Court.
Accountability courts — court-sponsored programs such as Drug Court and DUI Court — will be held “in abbreviated fashion,” according to the memo.
Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said the matters being heard during this emergency period will be “more urgent matters related to bond hearings for some jailed defendants, taking pleas on jail cases that can be fairly closed” and some bond revocations.
Darragh, who has some staff working remotely, said one grand jury session has been canceled and “perhaps more in the future.”
“The judges will also hear ex parte motions for temporary protective orders and follow-up hearings, as well as any other critical matters as determined by the judge on duty,” according to the memo.
Superior Court and State Court staff will work remotely, with the latter court also taking jail pleas and other court matters considered critical.
“We continue to evaluate the inmate population in connection with the courts and will take action based on their input as they manage their own caseload,” Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derreck Booth wrote in an email.
Civil hearings in Magistrate Court will be rescheduled for the earliest date after the emergency order is lifted, but Magistrate Court staff will be at the courthouse.
The law library, deed room and Magistrate Court are closed to the public.
While the clerk of court’s office is open to the public, it will run on a reduced staff. Court administrator Jason Stephenson advised people to e-file as possible, conduct business over the phone and make appointments.
Probate Court is advising for filings to come through the mail.
No weapons carry licenses will be processed during the emergency order, and expiring licenses will automatically be extended so deadlines are 30 days later.
At the Hall County Jail, individuals being booked in are being screened “based on the known symptoms,” Booth said.
“We are placing an added emphasis on cleaning and sanitizing in areas where individuals enter the facility, to include booking, the lobby and employee entrance,” Booth wrote in an email.
In-person visitation for inmates was suspended last week, but online visitation will continue.
Juvenile Court judges are reviewing all dependency cases, which are court matters concerning the wellbeing of a child after the Division of Family and Children Services finds evidence to support suspected neglect or abuse.
Judges will determine if the hearing in a dependency case is “essential” by “considering the health, safety and liberty of individuals,” according to the memo. Some non-essential hearings may be conducted via conference call when possible.
“The court is asking all parties work together to see if a consent order addressing all pertinent findings for that scheduled hearing could be submitted in lieu of a rescheduling order,” according to the court’s memo.
While many of the Juvenile Court staff work from home, at least one clerk, one intake officer, receptionists and a judge will be available in the office.