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Georgia’s COVID-19 Statewide Judicial Emergency To End Soon

The Georgia Supreme Court sits empty Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Atlanta. The Georgia House has approved Gov. Nathan Deal's proposal to add two justices to the state's Supreme Court. Georgia's Constitution permits up to nine justices; state law currently provides for seven justices. The measure now will be reviewed by the state Senate. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
The Georgia Supreme Court sits empty Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Atlanta. The Georgia House has approved Gov. Nathan Deal's proposal to add two justices to the state's Supreme Court. Georgia's Constitution permits up to nine justices; state law currently provides for seven justices. The measure now will be reviewed by the state Senate. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Georgia’s top judge says he expects the statewide judicial emergency he declared last year because of the coronavirus pandemic to be over at the end of this month.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton said Friday that he plans to issue an order Monday extending the statewide judicial emergency but that he does not expect it to last beyond June 30. Melton first declared the statewide judicial emergency on March 14, 2020.

Melton said he’s been watching the trends in Gov. Brian Kemp’s public health emergency orders based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the decline in COVID-19 rates across the state. He said he doubts the governor will extend the public health emergency beyond the end of the month.

The chief justice noted that he’s been advising courts across the state for a while now to prepare for how they will operate without his order.

“It will take hard work, creativity, and cooperation to get our courts back to full operations and to resolve the large backlogs of cases that have accumulated due to the restrictions the pandemic required,” Melton said in a news release.

The chief judges in the state’s 49 judicial circuits have the authority to issue local judicial emergency orders, and that will be discussed further in a notice of expected termination of the statewide judicial emergency that Melton plans to issue along with the last extension order.

“I am very proud of how nimble and committed our courts have been throughout the entire pandemic to ensure the public health of all those who come to our courts, while safeguarding the rights of Georgia’s citizens,” Melton said. “Our local courts are equipped and ready to carry the load the rest of the way.”