On March 14, Georgia Chief Justice Harold Melton issued an order declaring a judicial emergency in the State of Georgia. The order is sweeping in nature and will impact all litigation pending in Georgia state courts. The chief justice ordered that all courts within the state limit their daily functions only to “essential” business. While that term is open for interpretation, it clearly does not include almost all business and civil disputes.
The order specifically tolls all deadlines and responses of any kind in business litigation until April 14, 2020. This includes, among other things, all deadlines imposed by court orders, all deadlines to file appeals, all discovery deadlines, and any statute of limitation. For all of these deadlines, all parties will have after April 14 as much time to make appropriate filings as existed as of March 14, 2020. For example if a deadline was April 1, it is now May 1.
What does this order not impact? Certainly any cases currently pending in federal courts within the State of Georgia. Nor would the order be binding on any arbitration proceedings. The order also does not impact the ability of local governments to proceed with “quasi-judicial” functions such as zoning hearings.
Nonetheless, the impact on organizations who have current or anticipated business in Georgia courts will be dramatic for the affected period. Not only does the order stay your responsibility to respond to most court proceedings, it does the same for your opponent. You, in conjunction with your attorney, will have to make certain strategy decisions regarding the prosecution or defense of your case. Examples include whether to serve discovery upon your opponent knowing they will have, as a matter of right, more than the traditional 30-day response time, as well as whether your decisions on what to file – and when – will be impacted by the foreseeable bottleneck of filings submitted on April 14.
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