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Courts and Coronavirus
Pandemic affects legal world
W LovettBennettJr
Lovett Bennett Jr.

Like everywhere, the coronavirus pandemic has slowed things down at the Bulloch County Courthouse, but thanks to inventive attorneys, amiable judges and a little bit of technology, the stream of justice has not completely run dry.

A decree by Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold D. Melton put a lot of court cases on hold with a COVID-19 related order that there be no large gatherings of people in courtrooms and that social distancing must be maintained within any court if law, but the small stuff still happens, said Bulloch County Clerk of Courts Heather McNeal.

“We do a lot with social distancing” and computers, such as holding bond hearings, she said. With modern technology and services such as Zoom, 

“An inmate can stay at the jail” and the judge can “hear” a case remotely, she said. However, issues such as jury selection and trials (which would insist upon people gathering in large numbers within confined quarters) have been placed on hiatus until Gov. Brian Kemp’s “shelter in place” and Melton’s restrictive orders are expired.

Justice Melton’s mandate is until May 13 “unless that changes and it is extended,” said Bulloch County Superior Court Judge Lovett Bennett Jr.

 “It has been very interesting abiding by Justice Melton’s order.”

Group meetings via the Internet keep things going, he said. “We are still having court, to an extent, remotely.
“The judges will be in the courtroom, the attorneys in their offices and inmates at the jail.”

But, “by virtue of the order, grand jury, calendar call, plea dates, and trials are postponed,” he said.

It is yet to be seen how the delays will affect defendants as far as time served, etc. As with every other aspect of “normal life,” everyone will have to wait and see what happens on a day-by-day basis, he said.


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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