Stone Mountain, GA — The Stone Mountain courthouse is back open and processing a backlog of cases after shutting down for two weeks due to a visitor’s positive COVID-19 case.
City Manager ChaQuias Miller-Thornton was notified on Jan. 15 that a person attending a Stone Mountain Municipal Court session the day before tested positive for COVID-19, according to a press release. Court services were suspended through Jan. 29 at the facility at 875 Main Street so it could be deep cleaned.
New contactless screening scenarios were implemented when the facility reopened on Feb. 1. It was the second shutdown since the pandemic began, after being closed March to April 2020.
“Our officers are having to assign court dates that are one-and-a-half to two months out from the date of citation due, in part, to a backlog experienced during the first shutdown,” Miller-Thornton told The Tucker Observer.
She listed constantly changing protocols, reacting quickly to possible exposures and managing operations with a limited staff as the challenges that the pandemic has presented.
The city began limiting the number of cases heard each day once the courthouse reopened in May 2020, which prepared them to reset cases after this latest shutdown.
“For example, the cases that were set for the most recent closedown period at the end of January have been reset for calendars in February and March,” Miller-Thornton said. “Limiting the initial calendars for February and March allows for the addition of reset cases to those calendars without overburdening court staff or operations of the city’s court and administrative offices.”
“All things considered, the courts are doing well to reduce backlog based on thought-out scenarios — like limited cases per session and staggard court sessions — implemented by the city’s administration,” she added.
Visitors to Stone Mountain Municipal Court must check in with a photo identification then wait in their car until being contacted to re-enter, according to COVID-19 safety protocols. Only the defendant listed on the citation is allowed to enter the court with their attorney if applicable. Defendants under 21 may be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Children are discouraged from entering the courtroom.
Defendants 65 and older and/or who are immune-compromised may contact the clerk’s office prior to their hearing date to request one courtesy reset. Ill defendants are not allowed to enter the courthouse. Defendants are asked to wear a mask while in the building, and all defendants, attorneys and court staff must maintain six feet of social distance.
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