ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain has confirmed that he has tested positive for COVID-19, commonly called the Coronavirus.
While sources have spoken recently about employees in the Gilmer County Courthouse having been exposed, Chastain himself has reached out to inform the public that he has tested positive. There are still indications of others in the courthouse having been exposed, but with an official confirmation, responses will be increased and sanitization orders are already in effect from yesterday’s Judicial Emergency Order.
Offices are shut down, however, FYN’s understanding is that the general courthouse is still open and the Sheriff’s Office is continuing to remain open in service to the public in the face of the positive test.
Speaking with Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris, the Gilmer Courthouse is continuing as ordered under the Judicial Order to close offices and courts. He stated that certain employees are still in offices in an isolated area answering phone calls and doing work that cannot be performed from home, but the offices are closed to physical access by the public.
Paris stated that he has notified employees within the Board of Commissioners office and has also notified department heads who are notifying their employees about exposures within the courthouse. Utilizing a rotation style operation in some departments, employees are still able to access their offices for filings or needs and operate phones and services while minimizing contact and risk in the building.
Other Elected Officials are operating and notifying employees in their areas as they see fit under their own jurisdictions.
While this operation is continuing for this week, Paris said that the entire courthouse building will shut down this Friday, July 10, 2020, in order for Restoration 1, a company out of Dawsonville certified for this type of cleaning, to operate, clean, and release a sanitizing mist within the building. Shutting down Friday will allow the mist to settle over the weekend before anyone returns to the courthouse.
Additionally, Monday, July 13, 2020, officials will reconvene after the cleaning and time has allowed additional testing to return on certain employees. Paris said that they will have to make a decision at that time about the continued operations or closures as needed with the information available then.
Paris did say that the Board of Commissioners are making every attempt to spread awareness of the possibility of exposure through news outlets, their websites, and phone calls. He stated that he has already received calls from citizens inquiring about the courthouse and a positive test. Paris suggested that citizens who may have visited the courthouse in recent days speak with their doctors about their situation and possible exposure and to follow testing as they order. He stated that as he is not a medical professional, he can only suggest this course of action for people.
Paris did say he has been in contact with the Health Department, informing them of the situation and the current steps being taken. Working in conjunction with them as well as local and state guidelines, he gave thanks and commended Judge Weaver on her quick response and action to the situation saying that he believes they have mitigated as much of the risk and exposure as they possibly could.
He went on to add that his hope is for people to take the situation and the virus seriously and be considerate of others and their capability to spread the virus even if they are not at risk from it.
Currently, sources say that Chastain’s contraction of the virus came from a Revival meeting at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Cartecay last week. FYN has reached out to the church for more information and is currently awaiting responses from church leaders. The church did cancel remaining services on July 4, 2020, as soon as first notice of someone running a fever and exhibiting symptoms was brought to them.
Our current understanding is church members are being contacted via the church line and suggestions to be tested have been issued in conjunction with guidelines from Health Departments. As with Revival Services of this type, it can be hard to keep up with numbers, but reports indicate that church officials are working diligently to contact and spread information so that any who may have attended services might be made aware.
FYN is attempting to contact Pastor Jamie Smith, but with large groups, it may not be possible to tell exactly who could have been the initial case or where it was contracted from before.
Additionally, FYN is now reaching out to officials in the and the Gilmer County Health Department about the positive test and their plans on sanitizing, quarantining, and contact tracing those who may have come into or worked in the courthouse. Jennifer King, North Georgia Health District Public Information Officer and Risk Communicator, said she is in contact with the Gilmer Branch and FYN is currently awaiting information from her as it becomes available.
Stay with us as more details become available on this story.
(Ellijay, Ga) Appalachian Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge, Mary Elizabeth Priest, announced her recent qualification for and intent to run for the Superior Court bench in the May 2018 nonpartisan General Election. Ellijay has been her home for thirty years.
The Superior Courts handle civil matters, including family and domestic litigation, criminal cases ranging from traffic violations to felonies, as well as transfers and appeals from Magistrate Court and Probate Court. In our Appalachian Circuit, Superior Court Judges are responsible for dockets and jury trials in Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens Counties.
Mary Beth is a graduate of Gilmer High School and North Georgia College and State University. Before
attending law school, she served as a case manager and investigator for the Pickens County Department
of Family and Children Services. She later received her Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Georgia State
University. She began her legal career as an associate attorney at Downey & Cleveland, in Marietta, in
2006. In 2010, she joined the law firm Clark & Clark, in Ellijay, where she practiced complex civil litigation.
Priest said, “It has been a great honor to serve on the bench for the past two years. One of my goals has
been to build a bridge between our community and our court system. I am proud of the progress we have
made in that regard. Being a judge is an enormous responsibility that I take very seriously. I ask the
people of the Appalachian Circuit to trust me with their vote. If they do, I will continue to work hard for
our community with the same commitment to efficiency, impartiality, fairness, and responsibility that I
have had since my first day on the bench.”
Judge Priest was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal in 2016 to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Roger Bradley. In addition to being involved with and frequently speaking at local civil- organizations, she initiated and helped coach the Gilmer High School Mock Trial Team’s inaugural season this year. As an adopted child born into foster care, she has also done outreach for adoption agencies as a strong advocate for foster and adopted children.
Her husband, Jeremy, owns and operates a scrap metal recycling company as well as a plumbing company, and they live in Ellijay with their two children. Her father, Mike Williams, and mother, Lorie Stanley Williams originally of Stanley Creek in Fannin County, also live in Ellijay.
“No evidence has been presented to show any violation of code of Judicial Ethics by Judge Weaver. Instead, the evidence appears to show a personal dislike of the Judge.”
Last week the Georgia Judicial Qualification Commission dismissed the complaint against Appalachian Judicial District Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver.
“The complaint of Thomason, Stookey, Doss and the GCSPJ are without any basis in law or fact. The complaints are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to enlist the JQC in their fixation upon harming Judge Weaver. The JQC will have no further part in it. All complaints are hereby dismissed.”
The complaint was submitted to the JQC by Mark Thomason, former publisher of the Fannin Focus, his attorney Russell Stookey and Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss.
In the JQC conclusions they addressed the Georgia Chapters Society of Professionals Journalist complaint that Weaver mounted an attack on freedom of the press.
“Calling oneself a “journalist” and “reporter” should not be a cover for pursuing personal vendettas.”
Stookey and Thomason with the assistance of Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss raised a complaint to the FBI to initiate an investigation.
JQC, “The FBI investigated the allegations raised by Stookey and Thomason but found no wrongdoing.”
On June 15th Atlanta Attorney Gerry Weber, representing Russell Stookey and Mark Thomason, sent a demand letter and Ante Litem Notice to Judge Brenda Weaver, District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee and Pickens County Board of Commissioners.
Part of Weber’s summary of claim, “This case has already garnered national attention. It involves breathtaking abuse of power by a Judge, prosecutor, and law enforcement who manipulated the criminal justice system to wage a personal vendetta against a local newspaper publisher and his attorney.”
Weber’s claim for damages conclusion, “Further accounting for damages stemming from the emotional distress in false arrest and malicious prosecution and for the punitive damages due to egregiousness of the actions leading to the arrests, Stookey’s and Thomason’s damages exceed 1,000,000.”
How far will this case go considering the FBI and JQC have closed their investigation both dismissing the possible charge of wrongdoing.
A celebration was held January 26th 2016 in honor of Superior Court Judge Roger Bradley’s retirement. A large crowd of colleagues, friends, and family attended the gathering to honor Judge Bradley and wish him well on the next chapter of his life. Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver spoke of Judge Bradley’s career and presented him with a plaque. Attorney George Weaver spoke at the gathering and reflected on the memories with the crowd.
Judge Bradley has shared with us about his plans to spend time with his family and do some traveling. FYN would like to wish him well.
Superior Court Judge Honorable Roger Bradley has announced his retirement effective January 31st 2016. Judge Bradley spoke with FYN earlier and expressed how much he will miss all the wonderful people he has had the opportunity to work with over the years. However he is looking forward to visiting with family and has made some exciting travel plans. Judge Bradley has released the following statement:
Judge Roger Bradley Announces Retirement
Let me take this opportunity to thank all of the voting constituents of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit for the confidence and trust in me to serve as your Superior Court Judge for the last fifteen years.
It has truly been a privilege to be a public servant to this circuit and to those litigants that have come in to court.
There is however a “season” for all things and now is the appropriate opportunity for me to take leave and to enjoy places and things that I have wanted to enjoy throughout my service as a Superior Court Judge. Effective January 31, 2016 I will be retiring as a Superior Court Judge, however, it is not without regrets because of the friends I will miss, however, as best said by my bailiff who also recently retired because of family health issues, he stated “I don’t like long good byes”.
That fits very well here but I do want to thank again all of the voting constituents for their confidence and trust throughout this past fifteen years of service.
There will be a retirement celebration for Judge Bradley on Tuesday, January 26th 2016 in the Jury Assembly Room in the Gilmer County Courthouse between 4 and 6 pm.
The retirement announcement from Judge Bradley coupled with the recent appointment of Superior Court Judge Amanda Mercier to the Georgia Court of Appeals will leave two vacancies on the Appalachian Judicial Circuit. Governor Nathan Deal will make appointments to fill the vacancies on the bench. This may make for a very interesting election season. Always go to FetchYourNews.com for the most recent election coverage. Click on Election 2016 for up to date information.
Some technology has been around forever while smart phones are relatively new. The majority of kids have one and are responsible users however kids are kids and our greatest investment and resource. Recently it came to our attention how fast times have changed and some misuse with smart phones. Most kids have cell phones or internet access on a daily basis. There is good and bad and like anything, sometimes it is all in how it is used. The issues facing children change from year to year and how people are equipped to handle the change can make all the difference. This is where our local District Attorney of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit B. Alison Sosebee stepped up to help us all be proactive.
Frustration can sometimes lead to solutions and in this case Sosebee believed prevention to be the best solution. Tired of seeing indecent photos on confiscated phones from school children prompted Ms. Sosebee to put together a program for the children and the parents. FetchYourNews.com has video productions of the program and also brought a town hall live. We also did an Anti Bully Campaign in the middle schools asking the children to provide essays, posters, or videos on the subject of cyber bullying to help raise awareness and hopefully provoke thought on the issue.
The Weapons of Mass Destruction addresses the downfalls which can change a life forever with the misuse of a cell phone, from cyber bullying to sending or possessing indecent photos. The program for the parents addresses safety precautions parents can take; such as apps which monitor children’s phones and control access to certain unsafe and detrimental sites or activities. The program developed by DA Alison Sosebee is very direct and informative and FYN plans to continue with our campaign by using various methods of raising awareness and sharing information.
The only problem with the Weapons of Mass Destruction campaign was the limitation of the distribution. Since Sosebee only serves Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens and the problems are prevalent all over our Country. Thus another solution avails and also an opportunity to inform parents and educate our children and hopefully prevent much heartache. Today Sosebee will be sharing the well put together program with other District Attorneys from all over.
The Annual Winter meeting of the District Attorneys’ Association is being held in Morrow, GA on December 3-4, 2015 and Ms. Sosebee will have the floor to present her program “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to the other District Attorneys and explain the issues which brought about the campaign. The desire is for the program to become widespread. Hopefully the other District Attorneys will take advantage and set up presentations in the regions they serve. The program may help combat problems before they arise. FYN looks forward to soon announcing the new areas the program is being used. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Ms. Sosebee told us in regards to the program she has high hopes it will change the future for many children; who may avoid a serious mistake or a permanent record. The program provides a better understanding of the consequences of misusing a cell phone or bullying. She also hopes it will provoke children to think about how they treat each other and how they value their own dignity. Her philosophy in regards to these issues, “No matter how educated, talented, rich, or cool you believe yourself to be, how you treat people ultimately tells all. Integrity is everything.”