On Monday, May 11, 2020, the Georgia Supreme Court issued its Second Order Extending Declaration of Statewide Judicial Emergency (the “Emergency Order”). The order, in essence, limits court to essential and some non-essential court operations through June 12, 2020. No jury trials will be allowed during this period. The Court had previously passed emergency amendments to Superior Court rules to allow for video conferencing on pre-trial and post-trial matters only. The emergency amendment allows for a party to object to a remote proceeding, but the judge has discretion to overrule the objection.
After seeking public comment last week on a proposed amendment to the Uniform Superior Court Rules regarding Telephone or Video Conferencing (Rule 9.1), the latest Emergency Order did NOT contain an amendment to the applicable rule. That amendment would have allowed for video conferencing of a civil non-jury trial for up to 180 days after the expiration of the Emergency Order. The amendment contains the same provisions allowing a party to object to a remote trial discussed above. Instead, the Emergency Order established a Judicial COVID-19 Task Force to assist in developing guidelines for remote proceedings.
However, the Emergency Order clarifies that local courts have authority to compel parties to participate in “civil non-jury trials and other non-jury adjudicative proceedings” where authorized by court rules, meaning if the court overrules a party’s objection to a video conference hearing, the court can compel a party, lawyer, and witness to attend remotely.
Judges have been granted discretion to reinstate deadlines “on a case-by-case basis”, but we have yet to see this occur at this early stage. Litigants can expect that this fluid situation will continue to evolve quickly as Georgia courts attempt to slowly reopen in the coming weeks and months ahead.
The latest Judicial Emergency Order is attached.
If you have any questions, please contact one of our attorneys in our Atlanta office at (470) 740-4100.