white man in black gown with short white hair.
In this Feb. 8, 2022 screenshot, State Supreme Court Chief Justice David Nahmias gives his State of the Judiciary address at the Georgia Capitol. (Georgia General Assembly)

The pandemic has forced judges to enter a new digital era using video conferences for court cases, a tool Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice David Nahmias said Tuesday will stay in use after the crisis ends.

“Virtual proceedings are one of the lessons learned from the pandemic that will be used long after it dissipates,” Nahmias said in the annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the Georgia General Assembly Tuesday. 

“We found that for many proceedings with few participants and limited evidentiary disputes, Zoom hearings can be as effective and often far more efficient than traditional proceedings with everyone in a courtroom,” he said. 

The chief justice said the courts have made more technological progress in the past two years than they likely would have made in two decades otherwise. 

Virtual court hearings have saved time and money for both lawyers and clients, Nahmias said.

“Many of these virtual proceedings can and should be part of the judicial system’s new normal when COVID becomes just a memory,” he said. “I also have the hope that the technological lessons that we’ve been learning can help with longstanding concerns about access to justice by poor and lower-income Georgians who need legal help with issues affecting their families, health, homes and jobs.” 

During his speech, Nahmias noted several creative ways judges adapted to the pandemic to make court proceedings more accessible:

  • Court documents were filed through a drop box in front of a courthouse. 
  • Essential hearings were conducted by scheduled appointment.
  • Cobb County Superior Court Judge LaTain Kell conducted hearings from a makeshift courtroom in his bedroom while quarantining.
  • Judges have provided electronic devices and secure spaces in courthouses to participants in court cases who do not have internet access.

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