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Virtual Litigation

COVID-19 has thrust the Georgia judicial system into the age of technology. The courts and their staff as well as attorneys across the state have spent the last three months mobilizing in order to accommodate the new paradigm composed of social distancing and remote working. The Manely Firm, P.C. understands firsthand the shift between working in office to working from home.

In response to the ongoing public health crisis, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued its Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency on March 14, 2020, which effectively postponed all court proceedings and functions except those deemed essential, until April 13, 2020. The Court considered essential matters to include applications for temporary protective orders, emergency removal hearings in juvenile court, and cases where an immediate concern regarding liberty or safety requires judicial intervention. Though this initial Order mentioned the possibility of courts continuing to hold hearings by way of video or phone conference, the foremost concern of the order was directly addressing the preservation of the health and safety of those litigants who required immediate judicial assistance and therefore were required to physically appear in court.

On April 6, 2020, the Supreme Court of Georgia extended its Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency to May 13, 2020, and this time, elaborated on the use of other means to adjudicate matters to avoid a backlog in cases in Georgia courts. Specifically, courts and litigants were encouraged to address legal matters that fall outside of the essential function exception by teleconference and or videoconference. The Order was again extended on May 11, 2020 until June 12, 2020, with the Supreme Court of Georgia reiterating the judicial system’s reliance on technology to conduct remote hearings and offering guidance on the same.

The Supreme Court of Georgia’s insistence on courts, attorneys and litigants using technology to address legal matters is telling. Though our sense of normal has been abruptly upended, the Supreme Court of Georgia expects us to push forward to the extent possible and has offered a way in which to do so. While court appearances have taken on a new, temporary identity, the legal woes of the Georgia population have not and The Manely Firm recognizes this. Since the initial entry of the Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency, we have been in routine contact with court staff to press the courts to more thoroughly use technology so that we can move our clients’ legal actions forward. Morever, our firm has conducted and participated in numerous court teleconferences, videoconferences and video hearing as well as virtual mediation sessions, providing our clients with peace of mind and practical solutions during this particularly uncertain time.

We expect the courts to continue to explore, utilize and rely upon technology to move cases along, hopefully more expeditiously than ever before. Technology in the court room and court house will continue long after Covid-19 is gone.

The Manely Firm is well-equipped to answer the Supreme Court of Georgia’s call to action. Let us help you.

Kourtney Bernard-Rance