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Georgia lawmakers hear State of the Judiciary

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ATLANTA, Ga. (WGXA)-- Georgia’s Chief Supreme Court Justice addressed the General Assembly this morning for his first State of the Judiciary speech.

Similar to the Governor's State of the State address, the Chief Justice typically comes to update the Legislature on the state of Georgia's legal system.

However, this year was a little bit different in the fact that everything revolved around one topic: how COVID has affected the courts.

The address was the honorable David Nahmias first address as Chief Justice. He took the special opportunity to cover a laundry list of problems stemming from COVID, and how the justice system has handled them so far.

"Dealing with a pandemic’s consequences is consuming the attention of Georgia's judges at all levels and it will for the foreseeable future," said Nahmias.

He began by covering the court system’s shift to more virtual proceedings, explaining that being able to meet remotely saves everyone time and money, especially defendants who need help from a free or pro-bono attorney in a different city.

"Zoom hearings can be as effective and often far more efficient than traditional proceedings with everyone in a courtroom," he said.

But, not every case can be dealt with on zoom, like jury trials, which could involve violent or dangerous defendants.

Nahmias says some judges have gotten creative in holding covid-safe trials by using larger spaces like arenas, even ice rinks. But, cases like these are often put on hold if there are no safe options. Which leads to a massive backlog, twice as big as before the pandemic.

"Particularly of the serious criminal cases that are the most likely to go to trial and have long and complicated trials, including many gang-related offenses and other cases with multiple defendants," he said.

With no solution other than to just struggle through it, Nahmias wrapped up his address by saying that the covid backlog would be an issue for the next few years and asked for everyone’s understanding.

"We will need support and patience from you and from the public as we struggle to keep up with new cases while also resolving the cases backlogged due to covid," said Nahmias.

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At the very end, Nahmias asked the General Assembly to put more money into mental health treatment for non-violent offenders, to maybe get people the help they really need.

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