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Relief funds target Ga. case backlog
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit receives $1.8 million

The Judicial Council of Georgia Committee on American Rescue Plan Act Funding has awarded grants totaling $24.8 million to 26 judicial circuits from around the state who submitted applications for Rescue Plan funds allocated to the judicial branch. 

The committee awarded $1,825,348 to the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, which is comprised of Bulloch, Screven, Jenkins and Effingham counties. There are 49 judicial circuits in Georgia and the Ogeechee circuit was one of 26 to receive funds.

In October, Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice David E. Nahmias, also Chair of the Judicial Council, announced the allocation of up to $110 million of Rescue Plan funds by Gov. Brian P. Kemp to address backlogs of court cases, particularly cases involving serious violent felonies. The Judicial Council is administering up to $96 million of that total for eligible courts, prosecutors, and related agencies. 

The remaining $14 million in Rescue Plan funds is allocated to the Georgia Public Defender Council for grants to public defenders. The committee accepted applications from Nov. 10-30 for the award period beginning Jan. 1, 2022. 

Requests from judicial circuits included funding for temporary personnel to respond to the case backlog, including senior judges and judges to serve by designation, assistant district attorneys, security personnel, victim support, and court reporters, funding for rental costs for temporary space to hold court, supplies and materials, and administrative staff to support grant administration. 

Georgia’s judiciary operated under a Statewide Judicial Emergency Order from March 2020 through June 2021. The order placed necessary limitations on court operations to protect the health of those working in and coming to courthouses during this time but also resulted in a backlog of criminal and civil cases, particularly those requiring jury trials to resolve. 

Since the order expired on June 30, 2021, courts have increased efforts to resolve cases, but the ongoing pandemic continues to limit the pace and scale of court operations as public health measures remain in place. 

The Committee, chaired by Presiding Justice Michael P. Boggs, is overseeing the application process for the grants and the Judicial Council’s Administrative Office of the Courts is facilitating the grant application, awarding, compliance, and reporting processes. The funds will be awarded on a calendar year basis, and all funds allocated to the judicial branch must be spent by Dec. 31, 2024. 

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