May 12, 2020
Dear Clients and Friends,
Our physical office remains closed to the public, with limited staff on site. Our attorneys and staff continue to work remotely as much as possible. Now is the time for all of us to hunker down, do our part, and greet each other on the other side.
May 12, 2020
Statewide Judicial Emergency Extended Through June 12
Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Harold D. Melton has extended the Statewide Judicial Emergency through June 12, 2020 in response to the continued COVID-19 pandemic.
Judge Melton first declared a Statewide Judicial Emergency on March 14. On April 6, due to the continuing statewide emergency, the Order was extended until May 13. During this time, the work of the courts in Georgia has gone forward on essential and critical matters, and most courts have continued some non-essential court operations, in particular by using technology to conduct proceedings remotely, most court facilities are not prepared to comply with social distancing and other public health requirements to safeguard the health of litigants, lawyers, judges, court personnel, and the public during extensive in-court proceedings or proceedings involving a large number of people.
After consulting with the Judicial Council of Georgia and other judicial partners, and recognizing that most in-court proceedings compel the attendance of various individuals rather than allowing them to decide how best to protect their own health, Judge Melton determined that the statewide judicial emergency Order should be extended, with some clarifications and modifications as well as directions regarding efforts to resume court operations in a manner that protects public health.
Accordingly, the Order Declaring Statewide Judicial Emergency, which would have expired on May 13 at 11:59 p.m. is further extended until Friday, June 12 at 11:59 p.m.
All Georgia courts shall continue to operate under the restrictions set forth in that Order as extended, with the following clarifications, modifications, and directions, Where this order refers to “public health guidance,” courts should consider the most specific current guidance provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), and their local health departments.
April 28, 2020
U.S. Courts Begin to Consider Guidelines for Reopening
On April 27, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has distributed to the courts guidelines for restoring operations that rely heavily on conditions in local communities and on objective data from local and state public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Federal Judiciary COVID-19 Recovery Guidelines emphasize local decision-making by the courts as each considers exhaustive factors while moving through four phases. The final phase is a return to normal operations, similar to those that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States.
Courts would progress through the phases at their own pace because the guidelines rely on such unpredictable factors as the downward trend of a community’s cumulative daily COVID-19 case counts over a 14-day period, the status of local restrictive movement and shelter-in-place orders, and confirmed or suspected cases in a court facility.
April 10, 2020
Executive Order Permitting Remote Notarization and Witnessing
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has issued an executive order permitting remote notarization and witnessing of all documents. The State Bar of Georgia expressed appreciation for the order which recognizes the critical need for remote notarization and witnessing in Georgia and the importance of maintaining access to legal services through this pandemic crisis.
The executive order provides a basic framework that must be followed for notarization and witnessing using real time audio-visual technology. Notably, a notary public performing a notarial act using real time audio-visual technology pursuant to the executive order must be a licensed Georgia attorney or a notary public supervised by a licensed Georgia attorney. The signer must also present proof of his or her identity to the notary via real time audio-visual technology. Additionally, a document notarized or witnessed using real-time audio visual technology must be signed, certified, and executed by the notary and/or witness(es) on the same calendar day that the signer signs the document.
You can read the entire order here.
April 8, 2020
U.S. District Court in Rome Closes Public Counters
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has issued General Order 20-07, which temporarily closes the public counters in the Rome and Gainesville divisions until further notice. A copy of the order is available here.
Members of the public may continue to file documents and make payments in both the Rome and Gainesville divisions by using a drop box provided outside of the clerk’s office in each division and following the posted instructions. For more information about the Rome drop box, call 706-378-4060.
On April 6, 2020, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton extended the statewide judicial emergency, to May 13th. A copy of the order can be found here: https://www.gasupreme.us/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/CJ_Melton_Extension_Order_signed_entered.pdf
This order impacts all state-court cases.
Chief Judge Thrash of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District has entered a number of orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which can be found below.
Under Order 20-01, as of March 16, 2020, the court continued all jury trials (and trial-specific deadlines) for 30 days and no jurors will be summoned for civil or criminal jury trials for 30 days. The court amended General Order 20-01 to extend its specified 30-day time periods through and including May 15, 2020. Individual judges may continue to hold hearings, conferences and bench trials in the exercise of their discretion. Consideration of civil or criminal motions that can be resolved without oral argument is not affected by Order 20-01.
The court is denying entry to anyone who has traveled internationally in the past fourteen days, has had close contact with someone who has traveled internationally in the past fourteen days, has been diagnosed with COVID-19, has been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed or has been asked to self-quarantine by any hospital or health agency. Those denied entry may appear by teleconference with approval of the presiding judge.
Additionally, the Rome federal courthouse is now re-open, but access is limited. In addition to the entry restrictions that apply to the entire district due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the Rome federal building is further restricted to judges, court staff and employees, those with offices or official responsibilities in the building, and members of the public with official business with the Court or any agency in the building including attorneys, witnesses, and family members required for Court hearings.
Order 20-01, Amended: http://www.gand.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/NDGA_GenOrder20-01a.pdf
March 31, 2020
The Supreme Court of Georgia has issued orders approving amendments to current trial court rules for the purpose of keeping Georgia’s courts open and accessible during the COVID-19 emergency.
Under the statewide judicial emergency that Chief Justice Harold D. Melton declared on March 14, 2020, courts throughout the state must remain open to address critical court functions that protect the health, safety, and liberty of all Georgia citizens.
Recent orders amend certain court rules to allow such things as the use of video conferences and telephone conferences in certain proceedings that normally require the physical presence of the judge and parties. The rules also encourage courts to livestream proceedings via the Internet to give the public access.
“The purpose of these orders is to enable all our courts to continue conducting essential court business while protecting citizens, judges, lawyers, and others from unnecessary exposure to the coronavirus,” Chief Justice Melton said.
The high court has issued five separate orders approving amendments to rules affecting superior and state courts, probate courts, municipal courts, juvenile courts, and magistrate courts. You can view the orders at www.gasupreme.us by clicking on “COVID-19 Information” on the site’s main page.
March 25, 2020
Dear Clients and Friends,
With the shelter-in-place emergency order from the City of Rome and Floyd County now in place, we want to update you on Brinson Askew Berry’s operations and response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Our office at 615 West 1st Street in Rome is now closed to the public and we ask for no visitors or unscheduled appointments at this time. Presently, our staff and attorneys are working remotely away from the office, but we will meet privately with clients on a select basis if required.
Promoting the health and safety of our colleagues, clients, and the broader community—while continuing to provide the highest quality service—is our top priority.
For those clients with appointments, real estate closings, will signings, or other transactions, please reach out to your BAB attorney by email, if he or she has not already contacted you, for a status report. We plan to move forward with those closings or meetings that are essential, and we are taking all precautions recommended by the CDC and other medical authorities.
We have robust online working capabilities, so the ability of our attorneys and staff to respond to your legal and business needs will continue uninterrupted and unimpeded. Email will be the best way to reach our attorneys and staff, and you can connect with us through our firm website at Brinson-Askew.com.
Also, for those of you involved in litigation, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an Order over the weekend declaring a state of judicial emergency, which will remain in place through April 13. Non-essential hearings and scheduled depositions have been postponed, though it remains unclear when depositions, mediations, and other litigation gatherings will recommence. Please reach out to your BAB attorney with any questions or concerns as to how the Supreme Court’s order impacts your case.
For those in federal court, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District has limited hearings and appearances. And, as of yesterday, the federal courthouse here in Rome was temporarily closed until further notice as a precaution. Again, please reach out to your BAB attorney if you have questions, thoughts, or concerns as to how COVID-19 is impacting your case.
We will continue to closely monitor this fluid situation, and we are prepared to react as quickly as necessary to protect our friends and clients.
Be safe. Wash your hands. And care for one another. Together, we will all get through this difficult time.
Your friends at Brinson Askew Berry