The order also suspends jury trials throughout the Northern District of Georgia, which includes courthouses in Newnan, Gainesville and Rome.
“The number of COVID-19 deaths in Georgia and the Northern District continues to rise, and no vaccine or cure is yet available to the public,” Chief Judge Thomas Thrash wrote.
His order cited information from the state Department of Public Health showing new COVID-19 cases in Georgia exceeding 1,000 a day, a higher daily tally than existed when jury trials were initially suspended in March.
Moreover, Thrash added, four counties — Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb — within the Northern District account for almost 30 percent of cases in Georgia.
Emergency conditions have prevented defense lawyers from having in-person meetings with clients held in custody and have severely limited communications with those clients in general. Interviews of some witnesses have also been a problem due to quarantine regulations in states that apply to persons traveling to and from Georgia, Thrash said.
“These circumstances and others have severely impeded if not prevented counsels’ ability to prepare for trial,” Thrash said.
The continued spread of the virus in the U.S. and Georgia, he said, also means that the resumption of jury trials cannot await the complete demise of COVID-19. At the same time, jury trials will not restart when the court believes the health and safety of those appearing for trial cannot be adequately protected, Thrash said.