Family Law | Our Courts During COVID-19 – Chatham County, Eastern Judicial Circuit
To Members of the Bar:
From: Chief Judge Penny Haas Freesemann and the Judges of the Eastern Judicial Circuit (Chatham County, Georgia)
The Superior Court Judges are committed to bringing the Eastern Judicial Circuit’s caseload current and to giving all citizens access to the courts. The Bar’s cooperation and patience as the courts re-open is particularly important in domestic relations matters.
The new processes and procedures have been designed to allow you to bring your clients’ legal issues safely before the court just as if assembled in a courtroom, but by remote means. Judge Position Assignment is suspended. Upon receipt of a docket, you may contact the Assigned Judge Position administrative assistant to determine where to send the required documents. At this time, all cases are being given 1 hour time slots, with additional scheduling to be addressed at the hearing. The hearing judge will entertain all scheduling issues and will determine reset the case for additional hearing time, as needed.
Although hearing sessions are time specific, each case is on standby throughout the day of the scheduled hearing. This is to allow efficient use of the time if a case is passed or is settled at the last moment. The court-wide requirement of pretrial orders is key to the conduct of the hearings. Strict compliance will be expected.
Attorneys should confer and stipulate to as much as possible including as to the authenticity of documents and other evidentiary thresholds, as well as facts not in dispute.
If one party objects to the video hearing, the court will balance the interests and either continue the hearing or overrule the objection. If the parties jointly seek a continuance for in person hearing or if a party files a jury trial demand, the parties will be instructed to contact the court after public health authorities lift all restrictions affecting physical distancing.
When a jury trial demand or in-person hearing request is filed, the client must sign such request with full acknowledgement that the final disposition may be delayed for years. Despite a jury demand, the case will remain on the docket as scheduled to address any issues — raised by the party who is not requesting a jury trial — such as child custody, familial support, et alia, to maintain the status quo in the best interest of children, if any, for a prolonged period of time.
In other words, the filing of a jury trial demand shall not work to deprive the court of its interlocutory authority to prevent harm during the protracted delay which will inevitably result from a jury demand. To the extent such demands are made for the purposes of delay, the usual remedies such as attorney’s fees may be sought.
All the new Superior Court instructions, orders, forms and resources will be found at chathamcourts.org. Please check regularly for new postings.
Thank you, Judge Louisa Abbot! Members, please help us keep the section informed – firstname.lastname@example.org [ mailto:email@example.com ] .
be well and stay safe…
ivory t. brown, Chair
Family Law Section
State Bar of Georgia
State Bar of Georgia
104 Marietta St. NW, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30303-2743
Phone – 404-527-8700 Fax – 404-527-8717