Court services in Cobb County will continue to be restricted under new state and local orders aimed at limiting the spread of the new coronavirus.
Cobb Superior Court Chief Judge Reuben Green issued a new order and memorandum Tuesday afternoon, declaring a judicial emergency in Cobb County until further notice.
Green’s order will require some non-essential court hearings to be rescheduled until after the judicial emergency. It follows the latest state order from Chief Justice Harold Melton, which imposes a judicial emergency across Georgia until June 12.
Melton’s statewide judicial emergency began on March 14 and has twice been extended.
Per Green’s latest order, filed in Cobb Superior Court on May 12, all jury services are canceled to prevent large numbers of people gathering in person.
Hearings and other matters that can be conducted via video or telephone conferencing shall continue, and in some instances in-court proceedings of essential parties will be allowed under strict social distancing guidelines.
Although the courthouses are technically open, the public is generally encouraged to stay away, especially anyone who feels ill, has been overseas in the last two weeks or has had contact with a coronavirus patient.
“One of our primary goals is the safety of everyone who enters the courthouses, whether a litigant, lawyer, observer, law enforcement officer or staff member,” Green told the MDJ. “There will be new signage at the courthouses with questions about COVID-19 that will have to be answered prior to entry into the courthouse. There will also be limitations on the number of people that can enter the courtrooms to comply with the social distancing requirements.”
Cobb courtrooms have been marked to show where people can and cannot be, to ensure everyone’s safety, Green said.
“By following these safety protocols and doing a gradual increase of operations we will ensure our courthouses remain open to serve our community,” he said.
Those who have to attend court must wear a face mask and socially distance at all times, and most likely will be asked to stay outside courtrooms until called.
Inmates are not being transported between the jail and courts, per judicial emergency orders, although certain criminal cases are progressing via video conferencing, particularly those involving custody matters.
Green said in his memorandum the in-court schedule of Cobb Superior Court will be increased on June 1.
“Our goal is to gradually increase our operations to serve the public better while focusing on public safety and the safety of all who come to our Cobb County courthouses,” Green told the MDJ. “Going forward we will increase the in-person hearings in compliance with the Department of Public Health guidelines.”
He said senior judges will continue to hear extradition and emergency hearings, protective and restraining orders, search warrant applications and jail revocations.
If guidelines allow, judges may also consider hearing uncontested divorces, adoptions, child support cases and property affidavits, per Green’s memorandum.
Accountability courts are conducting matters via video conferencing, Green said, although the juvenile court clerk’s office remains open for filings.
“We will continue to encourage virtual hearings involving video conferencing as we have been doing for the last two months,” he said. “This has proven very successful in allowing us to address non-emergency matters.”