Georgia high court to resume in-person oral arguments

The Georgia Supreme Court sits empty Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (David Goldman, Associated Press)

ATLANTA – Georgia’s highest court plans to resume in-person hearings after more than a year of remote proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The nine justices of the Georgia Supreme Court will be back in their courtroom in downtown Atlanta for oral arguments starting June 9, Chief Justice Harold Melton announced this week. Oral arguments moved online after Melton first declared a statewide judicial emergency in March 2020.

“Although the Statewide Judicial Emergency remains in place, this is yet another step in our court system’s return to robust court operations,” Melton said in a news release.

Public health measures will be in place the release says. All nine justices have been vaccinated and will wear masks. Other people in the courtroom will also have to wear masks, though attorneys making arguments may remove their masks at the podium.

Social distancing requirements will mean the crowd in the gallery will be limited to 34, rather than the full 154-person capacity.

The court will may continue to schedule some remote arguments each month by request. Parties will have to speak to each other before asking for remote oral argument, and the request must say whether the request is motivated by preference or good cause. It will be up to the court whether the request is granted.

Oral argument sessions will continue to be broadcast live on the court’s website.

Melton also signed an order Saturday extending the statewide judicial emergency for another 30 days. But the order says that deadlines for prosecutors to present cases involving detained people to a grand jury will be in effect again starting Friday.