Vaccinated and reunited. That’s the plan for the nine Georgia Supreme Court justices who will be appointed on Jan.

In a press release released on Wednesday, Chief Justice Harold Melton announced that the personal oral arguments would be resumed at the Nathan Deal Judicial Center in downtown Atlanta.

Brandon Bullard, chairman of the State Bar of Georgia Appellate Practice Section, welcomed the news. He said he had few opportunities to appeal the new courthouse before the pandemic closed it.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Bullard. “We were only able to use it in the first few months of 2020 when it opened.”

The court’s release stated that every judge was fully vaccinated, but COVID syringes are not a requirement to appear in court. During the meetings, however, all those present are required to wear a mask. Lawyers have the discretion to remove masks while arguing from the podium.

Speaking to the Court of Appeals, which is also located in the Deal building, Chief Judge Chris McFadden said, “We are in the process of deciding when to return to personal oral arguments and should make a decision soon. We are also looking into the possibility of hybrid hearings. “

In the High Court next month, the argument will be for the first time in over a year that the court will meet collectively on the bench. Bullard liked the timing.

Brandon Bullard. (Courtesy photo)

“It is wise that it is the June calendar because the court will not hold arguments in July. It gives them time to find out how well this will work, ”said Bullard. “It gives you a good window of time to try it out, pause and evaluate it, and then make a plan for how to proceed.”

The courtroom gallery will be limited to 34 people to allow for social distancing. The courtroom can seat 154 people.

“The room is big enough. The atrium of the main building is huge. It’s a very open space, ”said Bullard. “As long as we adhere to the guidelines, I think we are as safe as we can reasonably be.”

Satisfied with the security aspect, Bullard was more concerned with the future of virtual processes.

Amid the pandemic, the court held oral arguments monthly on Zoom after Melton declared a nationwide judicial emergency in March 2020. Bullard said the virtual arguments had been beneficial in reducing travel costs for remote consultants and clients while also creating more opportunities to bring arguments from other jurisdictions.

Virtual procedures are not going to go away completely.

The Supreme Court said they will be limited to requests that are approved at the court’s discretion, taking into account security concerns as well as general preferences.

Oral hearings will resume in person on Wednesday, June 9th, at 10 a.m., with the panel expected to hear two cases: S20G1471 Walker v. State and S21A0767 Stafford v. State.