Under an order signed Saturday by Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton, next Friday, May 14, deadlines will be reimposed on prosecutors for presenting cases to the grand jury involving detained adults and juveniles.
The order is the 14th the Chief Justice has signed that extends for 30 days the Statewide Judicial Emergency he first declared in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
State law requires that any adult who is arrested for a crime and refused bail must have the charges presented to a grand jury within 90 days of the person’s confinement; for any juvenile charged with such a serious crime that the case is under the jurisdiction of a superior court rather than juvenile court, the deadline for presenting the case is 180 days from the juvenile’s detention. Throughout the pandemic, those deadlines were suspended because in-person grand jury proceedings were nearly all suspended due to the threat of the virus spreading. However, the September 2020 order extending the emergency authorized the resumption of grand jury hearings where they could be done safely and in compliance with public health protocols.
And as today’s order points out, by now, “at least one grand jury should generally be able to operate safely in all counties.” Today’s order extends the Statewide Judicial Emergency for another 30 days until June 7, 2021. However, it encourages judges and litigants to prepare for the eventual end of the judicial emergency, which by law will happen shortly after Gov. Brian Kemp lifts the Public Health State 2 of Emergency. “Courts and litigants should be aware that when this statewide judicial emergency order expires, all deadlines not already reimposed will immediately be reimposed,” today’s order says, unless the deadlines have been suspended by a local judicial emergency order.
Under Senate Bill 163, which Gov. Kemp signed into law May 4, superior and state courts may be relieved of statutory speedy trial requirements following the declaration of a judicial emergency due to the impracticability of meeting the requirements in particular counties. Today’s order points out that any order granting such relief may suspend statutory speedy trial requirements for no more than eight months, and the overall authority to grant relief will expire on June 30, 2023.