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Courthouses Close Again As Judges and Staff Test Positive for COVID-19
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Several courthouses across Georgia are closing shop again after a number of judges and employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit issued an emergency order closing down the courthouses in Georgia’s Gilmer and Fannin counties.

The order said that “despite the implementation of and adherence to designated safety guidelines,” several courthouse employees in Gilmer and Fannin counties who are displaying COVID-19 symptoms have been tested and are awaiting results.

  
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Weaver said that she and two chairs of the two country commission decided it was no longer feasible for the judicial office in those courthouses to remain open.

Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain is one of the court officials who tested positive for the virus, Kevin Holder, executive director of the state’s Council of Probate Court Judges, told Law.com.

All court and clerk offices, as well as offices of the district attorney and the Court Appointed Special Advocate, will undergo deep cleaning, the order said.

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Ware County Superior Court Chief Judge Dwayne Gillis also announced a judicial emergency Tuesday after it was reported that Probate Judge Calvin Bennett and his family members as well as members of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Gillis said in the order the probate court would remain closed through July 19, and that “all court deadlines, time schedules or filing requirements are hereby suspended, tolled or extended for the duration of the judicial emergency.”



The president of the Council of Probate Court Judges, Cobb County Probate Judge Kelli Wolk told LAW.com a total of six probate judges have tested positive for the virus. One of which, Dougherty County Probate Judge Nancy Stephenson, in Albany, passed away April 1. 

Courthouses in Metro Atlanta have also been affected by the virus. In Henry County, the justice center remains closed through July 10 after six court employees, including two judges, tested positive for the virus.

Henry County State Court Judge Ben Studdard told Law.com that he is one of a handful of court employees who tested positive for COVID-19, leading to shutting down the justice center on July 1. A second judge and four sheriff’s deputies assigned to the justice center also tested positive for the virus, Superior Court Chief Judge Brian Amero told LAW.com. 

Studdard said everyone who works in the justice center would be tested for COVID-19, and those who have negative tests may return to work.

Henry County courts resumed operations in May, “with strict health screening, distancing, and masking and with multiple small court sessions,” after nearly two months in which all but emergency and some essential operations were suspended. Virtual proceedings were also conducted, Studdard told Law.com. 

Court employees in counties across Georgia have also tested positive for the virus in recent weeks.

Employees with clerks’ offices for the county’s juvenile, state, superior, probate and magistrate courts in Douglas County, were asked to self-quarantine and work from home after a court employee with coronavirus symptoms who had multiple contacts with other clerks in every office tested positive for the virus, Superior Court Chief Judge David Emerson told Law.com.

In Cobb County, seven employees in the county judicial complex have tested positive for the virus.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher said that six courthouse employees–have tested positive for COVID-19. 

While many Georgia courthouses have been working to resume normal operations, Law.com reports that the State Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton may extend the statewide judicial emergency. His order is currently in effect until Sunday.



 

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