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Coronavirus COVID-19 Updates

Posted on: September 11, 2020

Update on Courts & Courthouse Operations (Updated September 17)

Coronavirus COVID-19 Update - Courts

On September 10, 2020 Chief Justice Harold D. Melton of the Georgia Supreme Court extended a statewide judicial emergency through October 10, 2020. The courts in Athens-Clarke County and the Western Judicial Circuit will continue to scale back court-related operations through October 10. All courts are encouraged to continue to use and increase the use of technology to conduct remote judicial proceedings as a safer alternative to in-person proceedings.

Public Admission to the Courthouse

  • All members of the public and employees entering a Courthouse shall be screened, prior to entry, by the Sheriff’s Office for cough, fever, and recent exposure to COVID-19. 
  • Screening will be conducted in a designated area outside of the Hancock Street public entrance to the courthouse in Athens. 
  • Additionally, the Washington Street public entrance to the courthouse in Athens will be accessible to both the public and employees from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. Monday through Friday. Times that the Washington Street entrance is open will be subject to change at the discretion of the Sheriff or his designee based on staffing levels during any period. 
  • Each person’s temperature will be taken using a no-touch thermometer. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be prohibited entry into the courthouse.
  • All persons admitted to the Courthouse are required to wear face masks while in the public areas of the Courthouse. Masks are available at the entrance for individuals who do not have a mask. 
  • Individual offices within each courthouse may implement mandatory wearing of masks due to space and high-volume contact with the public. 
  • Hand sanitizer will be available in high use areas along with cleaning supplies. 
  • For individuals who do not have a court appearance but are accompanying a family member or friend, it is strongly encouraged that they consider not entering the Courthouse. People at higher risk for severe illness and children are strongly discouraged from entering the Courthouse unless they are a party to a case.
  • Everyone in the Courthouse should comply with social distancing recommendations and keep a six (6) foot distance from other persons as much as possible.
  • Individuals are strongly encouraged to leave any unnecessary belongings in their vehicle or at home in order to minimize surfaces for possible infection.

The local Standing Order for Court Procedures during COVID-19 Judicial Emergency [written prior to the ordinance] details the public admission to the Courthouse and more specifics related to:

  • Instructions for individuals who have, have been exposed to, or are especially vulnerable to, COVID-19
  • Employee admission to the Courthouse
  • Admission to courtrooms
  • Defense counsel in criminal cases
  • Special court procedures
  • Coordination of courtroom needs
  • Inherent power

Information about specific court procedures and services:

Clerk of Court for State & Superior Courts [Updated August 13, 2020]

  • The Clerk of Superior/State Court’s Office is open.
  • Public terminals and lobby for civil and criminal records is closed. One person at a time can use the one public terminal for a one hour increment.
  • Services are offered to customers wanting copies or filing documents at the door.
  • Customers are asked to use the online docket at www.athensclarkeclerkofcourt.com to research and print court records. Deed, lien and plat indexes and images are available at www.gsccca.org.
  • Those wishing to file in a civil or criminal case are encouraged to efile. All real estate recordings should also be efiled.
  • The Deed Room is open by appointment only and the sign up sheet is located at the office door. Only two persons at a time are allowed to use the Deed Room for one hour increments and they must wear masks and gloves and social distance.  
  • During this period of limited office use, we are sharing our 1962-1988 Grantor/Grantee Indexes at www.athensclarkeclerkofcourt.com. 1988 to present is available at www.gsccca.org. Many deed images are available on www.gsccca.org, even if the index does not exist.
  • Phones and emails are being answered.
  • Hard copy filings can be dropped off at the door.  
  • Information and forms on emergency protective orders are available at the door with instructions on how to file.

Juvenile Court [Updated June 16, 2020]

  • Juvenile Court is open for public business daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
  • All persons not of the same household are required to maintain a safe physical distance in the waiting area and the courtroom.
  • All court matters may be joined remotely, and information on how to join a particular hearing is available from the Juvenile Court clerk. 
  • When necessary, hearings may be held in the courtroom where there is very limited seating capacity, and the option to join remotely will be available for all hearings. 
  • Children need not be transported for dependency cases. Requests to have children present should be filed in writing, with notice and opportunity to be heard by all parties, including foster parents
  • No child shall be admitted to a Regional Youth Detention Center without judicial approval.
  • Appearances for dependency adjudications and dispositions may be waived by consent of all  parties and presentation of a written  consent order containing stipulated facts.
  • Foster parents, Court Appointed Special Advocates and Guardians Ad Litem may file written reports and may attend by video conference.
  • To contact the Juvenile Court, call 706-613-3300. To contact the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), call 706-369-5610. To contact Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS), call 706-227-7021.

Magistrate Court [Updated June 16, 2020]

  • Magistrate Court Clerk’s Office has re-opened to the public with reduced capacity due to social distancing. Please be patient when waiting for service.
  • All bond hearings will take place at 8:30 a.m. by video conference in the Magistrate Court courtroom.
  • Some civil cases have resumed with reduced capacity in the courtroom. Masks are required to enter the court and will be provided by the Sheriff, if needed.
  • You may call the Clerk between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. at 706-613-3310 ext. 5.

Municipal Court [Updated July 6, 2020]

  • The Municipal Court of Athens-Clarke County will begin regular court sessions the week of July 6, 2020. 
  • The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office will screen individuals prior to their entry to the Courthouse. The screening will consist of questions related to COVID-19 exposure and/or symptoms. The Sheriff’s Office will conduct contactless temperature checks during the screening. Anyone with Municipal Court business who does not meet the screening protocol will not be allowed to enter the Courthouse and will be directed to call Municipal Court for directions.
  • In order to maintain social distancing, and provide a healthy court experience, court dockets will be restricted to 20 cases for any one court session. The majority of court sessions will be scheduled throughout the day at 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Due to the restricted court dockets it will be important for Defendants to arrive at their court hearing  on the specific date and time for which their case is scheduled, and in a timely manner. It is recommended that Defendants arrive at the courthouse 30 minutes prior to their court session to ensure completion of the screening process prior to the beginning of the court session.
  • In order to maintain social distancing in the courtroom, people should not come to the courthouse unnecessarily. Defendants should refrain from bringing family members to their court hearing, unless they are a necessary witness.
  • Defendants who have concerns about attending their court session should contact the Municipal Court Clerk’s Office to inquire about Changing a Court Date or attending their court session via our Video Conferencing Court Option.
  • All court sessions will be available for viewing by the public via livestream on YouTube. The livestream will only be available during active court sessions. The YouTube link will be made available on this page.
  • Defendants should contact Municipal Court if their contact information has changed or if they have questions about a case. Municipal Court’s phone number is 706-613-3690, but email communication is preferred. Send email to municipalcourt@accgov.com with full name, complete mailing address, and a telephone number for receipt of text messages.
  • Contact information can also be submitted through the Court Date Reminder System enrollment form available at www.accgov.com/municipalcourt.
  • Fines can be paid online at www.athensgatix.com or by calling 855-873-9708.

Probate Court [Updated September 17, 2020]

  • New and renewal Weapons Carry License applications are being accepted again by appointment only. Renewal applications for licenses issued by Athens-Clarke County may be mailed in for processing. Appointments for applications for a new license or for renewal license originally issued by another county must be made in person, by appointment only. The application form and more detailed information is available online.
  • Hearings and trials are being conducted remotely, although there is a possibility of in-person hearings when physical distancing and other measures in accordance with public health guidelines are possible.
  • To contact the Probate Court, call 706-613-3320. For questions regarding filing emergency pleadings please dial extension 6323. If you have a pressing need to apply for a marriage license, dial extension 6321.

Superior Court [Updated September 11, 2020]

  • In order to avoid a crushing backlog of cases, Superior Court is scheduling in-person arraignments and probation revocation hearings for non-incarcerated individuals subject to the precautions outlined in the Standing Order requiring social distancing, temperature checks, and mandatory health questions before entry into the Courthouse.
  • Attorneys may submit waivers of appearance and pleas of not guilty in absentia. Times for these hearings will be staggered so that a minimal number of persons will be assembled at one time. Courtrooms will operate at 25% capacity with seating areas marked to insure adequate distancing.
  • Superior Court is also scheduling some civil matters.  This is being done on a case by case basis and often with the consent of the parties. 
  • Juries and jury trials are cancelled.
  • Grand Jury proceedings may resume “if doing so can be done safely and in compliance with public health guidance based on local conditions.” 
  • Criminal court search warrants, arrest warrants, initial appearances, and bond reviews will continue as needed.
  • Domestic abuse temporary protective orders and restraining orders will continue as needed.
  • To contact the Superior Court, call 706-613-3190.

State Court [Updated June 16, 2020]

  • Juries and jury trials are cancelled. 
  • State Court is scheduling a limited number of in-person court appearances.
  • Release hearings for incarcerated individuals will be expedited.
  • Parties may request that non-essential matters be conducted via video or teleconferencing.
  • Criminal court search warrants, arrest warrants, initial appearances, and bond reviews will continue as needed.
  • To contact the State Court, call 706-613-3200.

Weddings

  • For parties seeking to get married at the Courthouse by a judge, the parties must contact the appropriate court. The number of attendees may be limited or the location moved to accommodate appropriate distance.

If you are represented by an attorney, contact your attorney for information. If you are represented by the Public Defender’s Office, contact their office at 706-369-6440.

For additional information about individual courts, visit www.accgov.com/courts. For additional information updates about COVID-19 information and Athens-Clarke County responses and service changes, visit www.accgov.com/coronavirus.

6th Order for Statewide Judicial Emergency
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