Arraignments for 3/20 and 3/27
As part of the Judicial, Emergency declared by Chief Justice Melton, I am canceling any arraignments of any defendants who are not in custody for March 20, 2020, and March 27, 2020. I have conferred with the District Attorney and her office agrees with this decision. All inmates who are in custody will be arraigned via videoconference in both Richmond and Columbia counties on these dates. We encourage lawyers to utilize written waivers of arraignment to allow fewer defendants to appear in person if they are not in custody. (An approved form is attached). But if no waiver has been presented to the DA’s office prior to the scheduled arraignment or is presented in person at the scheduled arraignment, the arraignment hearing for defendants who are not in custody will not proceed on these dates. Those would be deemed continued to a future date. I am not the duty judge after March 27 so future decisions will be left to the judge(s) who are scheduled to preside over those future dates.
As to bond hearings, they will proceed via videoconference for both Richmond and Columbia counties on 3/20 and in Richmond only on 3/27. All such hearings will be conducted in Richmond County at 9 a.m.
There are a few cases set for sentencing on these dates as well. I am only going to proceed with sentencing if the defendant’s status will change as a result of the plea agreement. In other words, if the defendant would be released from confinement, go into confinement or be released to the Ga DOC, I will sentence the case. Otherwise, sentencings assigned to me will also be continued. If the defendant is in custody, I plan to handle those via video as well. That means any paperwork that needs to be signed will have to be done in advance and at the jail. Otherwise, it will be continued until that paperwork can be completed. Again, the lawyers will appear in the courtroom and the only person at the jail will be the defendant.
The lawyers should appear in the courtroom in Richmond County with me. We will comply with USCR 9.2 in all respects while conducting these hearings. While the courtroom must be open to the public, everyone is encouraged to keep family and friends to a minimum so that we can comply with the constitution and also use common sense during these unique times. If any lawyer feels that they may have been exposed to the virus, please advise and we can have other counsel appear on your behalf. Please do not risk others in an attempt to “be strong.”
J. WADE PADGETT
Judge, Superior Court
Augusta Judicial Circuit