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Do you have legal matters? Here’s the COVID-19 update.

Do you have ongoing legal matters and want to know what might be effected and how? Well, here is just about everything you need to know about what is happening in Gwinnett from the legal perspective.

The firm of Margret Gettle Washburn, P.C. is a general trial practice dedicated to representing injured workers, accident victims, family law, criminal defense, small corporate and estate and probate matters in Lawrenceville, Georgia. When you have your hand in so many different areas of the law, you have to keep abreast of all the changes that this new, extremely unique climate, brings. Margret, is always on the top of her game and has provided the below up to date information to help us all stay a bit more up to date on everything happening in the legal sector.


Hello to our friends, clients and colleagues,
We are in a very different world for our Courts and justice system than at the beginning of 2020 and there are new protocols in our Courts as per the Emergency Orders put in place due to Coronavirus/COVID-19. The Governor has issued an Order, April 3, 2020, expanding the Essential Services and non-Essential services definitions. The Order of April 2, 2020 stated anyone violating the Shelter in Place Order would be guilty of a misdemeanor. The officials enforcing the order are to provide notice prior to issuing a citation or making an arrest. This replaces the Executive Order of March
23, 2020.that allows the Sheriffs of this State and their deputies to enforce the close business, establishment, corporations, non-profit corporations or organizations as the Executive order of April 2, 2020. This remains in effect through April 13, 2020 t 11: 59 p.m. On Monday, April 6, 2020, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton extended the statewide judicial emergency Monday. The new order runs until May 13, extending by a month the one Melton signed on March 14, which was due to expire April 13. Both orders close the courts to all but essential functions in order to control the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, the courts are ordered to remain open to deal with matters that are critical or “essential” to protect the “health, safety, and liberty of individuals.”

“Issuing search and arrest warrants and the granting of domestic abuse restraining orders have been identified as essential functions, as have granting bonds. Criminal trials and jury duty have been suspended statewide. Melton is urging judges to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing where feasible when conducting hearings or other court matters to avoid litigants, judges, and others from having to convene in the courthouse and risk exposure to COVID-19”.

We have many questions about documents that have to be signed before a Notary Public. The Governor’s Order from March 31, 2020 states that “these requirements, per §44-2-1 et seq. and 45-17-1 et seq. , that an in­ person witness attest or acknowledge an instrument, document, or deed that must occur in the physical presence of the notary public may be satisfied by the use of real-time audio-visual communication technology or any similar real-time means of electronic video conferencing that allows the parties to communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound”.

Gwinnett Superior Court: School and Holiday Visitation Questions relating to child visitation schedules during the school closings; the Judges have determined that child visitation is governed by the child’s school calendar, visitation will continue to be governed by the previously published school calendar regardless of any break or homeschooling necessitated by the current public health crisis. Spring Break, holiday, and summer visitations will continue to be governed by the controlling school calendar, or as set out in any pending or applicable custody order. There is no jury duty or grand jury duty at this time; civil and criminal hearings are suspended.

Gwinnett County Recorder’s Court (traffic and planning and zoning) is hearing only jail custody cases during this time.  All arraignments, trials, pleas, probation hearings, status updates and school bus camera cases are being continued.  Notices of all rescheduled matters will be mailed.

The Clerk’s office is open for filing pleadings, entries of appearance; if you have a matter
pending in Recorders Court and need help, please call me as we handle ALL Recorders Court matters. The Duluth traffic court cases, and most municipal courts cases are also continued until after April 13, 2020, unless a Defendant is in custody. Please let us know if you need help to find out if your case is continued.

Juvenile Court: The only hearings in the Juvenile Court building are the delinquent detention hearings and Preliminary Protective removal hearings until April 13, 2020, unless otherwise extended.  Detention hearings will be held via WebEx video/telephone conferencing at 1:00 pm.  The Clerk’s Office is open for filings.  If you have a case where a child is in detention, or a child in a dependency case (return of custody, visitation, review, etc.), and need help, please send me an email and I will try to help. Traffic Tickets (under Age 17) hearings will be rescheduled.

Magistrate Court: Any new filings are by e-filing or may be mailed to the Clerk’s office. You can go to to the magistrate court tab and locate forms that you may need. The Court is not accepting new garnishments at this time and hearings for pending cases will be rescheduled. No Defaults or Writs of Possession will be issued without a hearing. All trials are rescheduled to a later date and notices will be mailed. The Court is not accepting any new Criminal Warrant Applications from non-law enforcement applicants. Any pending warrant application hearings will be rescheduled. Domestic Violence hearings will still be heard. The Court recommends you report a crime directly to the police.
Probate Court: The Clerk’s Office is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is limited public access area near the Court office. The Clerk is accepting Emergency Petitions, Medical Consent Guardianships, Orders to Apprehend, Involuntary Commitment Petitions, and Marriage License applications (with a wedding occurring before April 14, 2020) for in person filing at this time. Please call ahead: (770) 822-8350.

We have had questions about ongoing litigation, including our auto accident and workers comp cases. Of course, these are life-changing experiences, not fun to deal with and is usually a long process of filing the insurance claim, arguing with the adjuster about who was at fault and not getting anywhere. We are continuing to work on those cases even though there are no trials pending at this time. If you have a situation such as this, as the victim or the defendant, please call me if I may help. Do not try to handle this situation alone.

As of March 26, 2020, Gov. Kemp has ordered all schools to remain closed thru 4/24. In
Gwinnett where the courts are tied to the school calendar. I expect court closures will be
extended. My office is here to help you with all Superior Court civil and criminal matters, Recorders Court traffic and Juvenile Court matters, including contested cases between parents and third parties, grandparent custody matters and juvenile traffic court tickets. We also handle wills, trusts and estates.

Please let us know if we may be of help. Finally, I trust all of you are safe and “sheltering in place.”  Stay happy and healthy!