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.
ATLANTA, Ga – Chief Justice Harold D. Melton issued an order today that extends the statewide judicial emergency until May 13, 2020. The Chief Justice first declared a judicial emergency on March 14 which was due to expire April 13.
While under a statewide judicial emergency, courts are ordered to remain open to deal with matters that are critical or “essential” to protect the “health, safety, and liberty of individuals.” As an example, essential court functions include such things as the issuance of search and arrest warrants and the granting of domestic abuse restraining orders. However, criminal trials and jury duty have been suspended statewide, and courts are urged to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing where feasible when conducting hearings or other court matters to avoid litigants, judges, and other persons from having to convene in the courthouse and risk exposure to COVID-19.
With today’s extension of the emergency, the order urges courts to avoid backlogs in nonessential matters where they can do so safely. “With regard to matters not deemed essential functions under the Statewide Judicial Emergency Order, courts and litigants are encouraged to proceed to the extent feasible and consistent with public health guidance, for example through the use of teleconferences and videoconferences, to reduce backlogs when the judicial emergency ends,” the order says.
“The threat of this virus is difficult for everyone,” Chief Justice Melton said. “Court personnel are no exception. We have to ensure that they can safely fulfill their mission.”
Chief Justice Melton said that mandating that only essential matters be addressed by the courts is a step toward protecting the safety of court personnel and the public. But Chief Justice Melton noted that with today’s order extending the judicial emergency, “I also want to encourage courts and counsel in nonessential matters to move those matters forward as much as possible and practicable to maintain the flow. We should do what we can safely do during this time to keep the courts’ backlog from growing too large.”
The order urges attorneys to remember their “obligations of professionalism.” Guidance on those obligations can be found in the Lawyer’s Creed and Aspirational Statement on Professionalism. (https://www.gabar.org/aboutthebar/lawrelatedorganizations/cjcp/lawyers-creed.cfm) In particular, attorneys are urged during this emergency to accommodate opposing counsel in either moving cases along or agreeing to continuances as appropriate.
The order states that the Chief Justice will give notice of the expected termination of the order “at least one week in advance to allow courts to plan the transition to fuller operations.”
See entire declaration here: CJ Melton_Extension_Order_signed_entered
The March 14 order states that courts “should remain open to address essential functions, and in particular courts should give priority to matters defined as those necessary to protect health, safety, and liberty of individuals.” The order lists the matters courts should prioritize, which including domestic abuse restraining orders, juvenile court delinquency detention hearings and emergency removal matters, mental health commitment hearings, and cases “where an immediate liberty or safety concern is present requiring the attention of the court as soon as the court is available.”
“Following Governor Kemp’s declaration today of a Public Health State of Emergency, I am directing the judicial branch of government to suspend all but essential court functions,” Chief Justice Melton said. “These critical matters will remain a priority in our courts.”
Criminal trials in which a jury already has been empaneled “shall continue to conclusion, unless good cause exists to suspend the trial or declare a mistrial,” the order states.
During the period of the order, which will terminate April 13 unless extended, the order suspends and grants relief from a number of judicial deadlines, such as the “time within which to issue a warrant” and the “time within which to hold a commitment hearing.”
The order states that, “To the extent court proceedings are held, they should be done in a manner to limit the risk of exposure, where possible, such as videoconferencing.”
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: