NORTH GEORGIA – Both Gilmer and Fannin have received a new order entitled “Amended Third Order Extending Declaration of Judicial Emergency” closing and requiring deep cleaning for offices in the courthouses of both counties.
The order, sign by Superior Court Chief Judge Brenda Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, states that a number of courthouse employees are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and are awaiting testing results. Due to this the Chief Judge conferred with Board of Commissioner (BOC) Chairmen from each county and has declared the situation beyond the ability to continue with regular work.
The court has ordered that the counties deep clean and keep closed the following offices:
- Fannin County Superior Court Judge
- Fannin County Juvenile Court Judge
- Fannin County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
- Fannin County Probate Court
- Fannin County Magistrate Court
- Fannin County District Attorney
- Fannin County CASA
- Gilmer County Superior Court Judge
- Gilmer County Juvenile Court Judge
- Gilmer County Clerk of Superior and Juvenile Courts
- Gilmer County Probate Court
- Gilmer County Magistrate Court
- Gilmer County District Attorney
- Gilmer County Misdemeanor Probation
- Gilmer County CASA
Additionally, Gilmer County has also closed the offices of the Gilmer County Tax Assessor and the Gilmer County Tax Commissioner. These offices are also ordered to perform a deep cleaning and remain closed until further orders are given.
Just as with the previous Judicial Emergency Orders, Remote Videoconference hearings are being utilized and scheduled. The order states that all other provisions of the previous order are still in effect.
This all comes after the announcements of some of Gilmer and Fannin Elected Officials and Courts closing earlier today due to COVID-19 exposures.
GILMER, Ga. – An order declaring a Judicial Emergency has been released from Chief Judge Brenda Weaver was filed today in Gilmer County regarding civil and/or criminal court proceedings in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit (Gilmer, Fannin, Pickens counties).
The order states, “The nature of this emergency is the continued transmission of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 throughout the State of Georgia and the potential infection of those who are required to appear in our courts and interact with large groups due to jury service, including grand jury service, or other large, non-essential calendars.”
As for the cases slated for next week, the order states, “It is the order of the Court that jury trials are CONTINUED, and no jurors or grand jurors shall report, and no jury trials shall be held for a period of 30 days from the date of the entry of this order.”
The order charges all parties and attorneys in specially-set hearings between March 13, 2020, and April 11, 2020, to contact the assigned judge for directions.
The order provides this list of the Amended 2020 Superior Court Calendar in that same time frame:
Additionally, the order calls for attorneys and clients to report and notify each other of any sign or showing of symptoms of illness, even mild ones, prior to or after court as well as any contact or exposure to a Coronavirus positive individual. The attorneys should then contact the judge’s office if this occurs.
The order also states a list of people that “shall not enter Pickens, Gilmer, or Fannin Courthouse or any probation office Pickens, Gilmer, or Fannin Counties, without prior permission from the Chief Judge.” Those people include:
Persons who have been in any of the following countries or regions within the last 14 days:
STATE OF WASHINGTON
NEW ROCHELLE, NEW YORK
Persons who reside or have had close contact with someone who has been in one of the countries listed above within the last 14 days;
Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, or health agency;
Persons who have been diagnosed within, or have had contact with, anyone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus (COVID-19);
The order charges Sheriff’s offices in these counties to deny entry to those in violation of this order. It also gives guidance to those under this order’s restrictions on the steps to take. Read the full Judicial Order below:
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Probate Court honored three of its clerks for their state certifications this week.
A process that began with former Probate Judge Anita Mullins, these employees have served for years in the court system and have completed training programs within the system under Judge Scott Chastain.
The three girls recognize are Jana Grno, Tracy Teague, and Lyndsay Hightower. Chastain says that recognition is given for 30 hours and 60 hours of training for the program, but he wanted to do something special as each of these girls now have 90 hours, the final stage of the program and actual certification.
Jana Grno will have been with the Gilmer Probate for five years next week on April 21. Focusing on the vital records and weapons permits now, Chastain says there is very little she cannot do in the Probate Court as she also assists in traffic court. She is also the longest running employee in the Probate Office in Gilmer County.
Tracy Teague will reach her 5 years with the Probate Court this September. Chastain calls Teague a “lifesaver” as he transitioned in the office. He says she was and is constantly there every time he calls for anything the office needs.
Teague has recently been announced as Judge Chastain’s Chief Clerk. Teague had already served as Chief Clerk under Judge Mullins and continues this service now that Chastain has asked her as well. She handles much of the requirements in traffic court, and Chastain says he uses her as Chief Clerk for certain administration needs when he is out of the office.
Lyndsay Hightower was hired into the Probate Court on August 30, 2016. She serves in the front window of the Probate Office, she is the main probate clerk of the office according to Chastain. He noted that he has basically asked her to take on the work of two clerks and she continues to work hard under the stress. With previous experience in law enforcement, he says Hightower brings a different view to the office alongside her coworkers.
Mullins was also present at the celebration for her former employees. She offered a few words on the occasion as she stated, “They worked so hard for me. They were such a blessing because I was going through, at the end, a lot of family issues with my parents. If it hadn’t have been for these girls, I don’t know what I would have done. They are so smart, and they are so capable. I know that they are going to continue on and do great things.”
Both Mullins and Chastain made comments about how little the public gets to see just how much work goes on in the office behind the public sight. Accomplishing the vast amount of work necessary for the office to operate efficiently is next to impossible without the proper staff.
Chastain went on to say that with two other employees in the office, he hopes to become one of the few Probate Offices in the state of Georgia with every clerk state certified in the coming years.
“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.
Part 4 of our series on Fannin County, Brenda Weavers Resignation from the JQC, and the litigation of Mark Thomason.
Appalachian Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver has resigned as Chairperson and member of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Judge Weaver gave her resignation today August 12, 2016. She expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to serve and thanked the other members saying,
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity I was given to serve as a member and as the Chairperson of this commission. The work of this commission is extremely important and nothing and no one should distract from its duties and responsibilities. As a member, each of you spend a lot of time each month, reading materials and preparing for each meeting. Thank you.
BKP highlights the Fannin County Magistrate Court Run-Off and its Candidates.
A journalist jailed? Look behind the plea of oppression.
The Judicial Nominating Commission has submitted recommendations to fill vacancies within the Superior Court of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit. The vacancies within the Appalachian Judicial Circuit were created by the appointment of the Honorable Amanda Mercier to the Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia and the resignation of the Honorable Roger Bradley. Governor Deal will fill the vacancies from among the list. The Governor’s Office will contact candidates to schedule interviews.
The following names were submitted to Governor Deal:
Appalachian Judicial Circuit
Pictured L-R: Herman Clark, Mary Beth Priest, Robert A. Sneed, and John E. Worcester
- Herman Clark – President, Clark & Clark, Attorneys at Law, PC
- Mary Beth Priest – Associate, Clark & Clark, Attorneys at Law, PC
- Robert A. Sneed – Municipal Judge; Attorney, Robert A. Sneed & Associates, P.C.
- John E. Worcester – Chief Juvenile Court Judge, Appalachian Judicial Circuit
The next step for the selected candidates will be a personal interview scheduled with Governor Nathan Deal on April 14th. Deal will then make his selection for the two who will fill the vacancies.