Jury trials are set to resume in Georgia effectively immediately under a Tuesday order by Chief Justice Harold D. Melton.
The order is the 12th Melton has signed extending the Statewide Judicial Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release from the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Trial courts may resume jury trials, “if that can be done safely and in accordance with a final jury trial plan developed in collaboration with the local committee of judicial system participants and incorporated into the court’s written operating guidelines for in-person proceedings," according to the release.
While Georgia courts have remained open since the Statewide Judicial Emergency was announced in March 2020, jury trials were suspended due to the number of people required to gather at courthouses.
Jury trials were allowed to resume again in October 2020, but Chief Justice Melton prohibited them a second time in a Dec. 23, 2020 order due to rising COVID-19 cases.
However, with a recent drop in COVID-19 cases following a surge around the holidays, jury trials are again able to resume as local conditions allow, states the release.
According to the release, courts have put into place several safety protocols to protect jurors. These include pre-screening for health risks of all parties, temperature checks, masks, plexiglass barriers, touch-free evidence technology, constant surface cleaning and the reconfiguration of courtrooms and jury spaces to ensure social distancing.
Aside from allowing jury trials to resume, Tuesday's order is identical to the order Melton signed on Feb. 7. The order urges all courts to use technology to conduct remote judicial proceedings where practicable and lawful. The new order extended the Statewide Judicial Emergency until April 8, 2021.
You can read the order here.