Catoosa County’s judicial system hosted a Facebook Live press conference in order to update citizens on what has or has not changed about how the courts operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the State of the Judiciary conference, Probate Judge Jeff Hullender and other members of the judiciary spoke about how the system has changed.
“Due to the continued statewide emergency concerning the transmission of the coronavirus, the honorable Harold D. Melton of the Supreme Court of Georgia does extend the March 14 amended order declaring statewide judicial emergency,” said Clerk of the Superior Court Tracey Brown, “which would have expired on April 13, has been continued until Wednesday on May 13.”
Because of this extension, the courts normal operating procedures have been heavily altered. Ms. Brown said temporary protective orders are still being processed, and bond hearings and guilty pleas are still being done through video services. She did say that the staff are at half-capacity in order to minimize the amount of people who might be exposed to COVID-19, so responses might be less than quick.
Chief Magistrate Johnny Gass said essential matters in the court are still being handled. He said bond hearings are still being performed along with other approving of search warrants. He said case filings can still be done through E-filing, but that no civil matters are being heard at the moment.
State Court Prosecutor Doug Woodruff said that domestic violence numbers have increased, not only in Catoosa County, but also in in Georgia and the country as a whole. He implored victims to not hesitate when it comes to contacting law enforcement, a shelter, or a crisis center.
Juvenile Court Judge Ken Poston said that juvenile court is so essential that hearings are still taking place. However, he said these hearings take place in the largest courtroom in Catoosa County, and people are spread out at least 10 feet apart from one another. In addition to this, masks and gloves are handed out in order to curb the threat of someone unknowingly transmitting COVID-19.
“We went to work identifying those who are in the jails who are most at risk,” said Public Defender David Dunn. “The jail populations are the lowest in decades because of the cooperation between the different offices. We’re not going to have any jury trials till mid-June.”
To end the press conference, Judge Hullender said that contrary to what social media purports, there is no curfew in place. He also said no firearm carry permits are being given out at the present time.