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Georgia Supreme Court to resume in-person oral arguments


A West Texas judge found himself having to issue a gentle reminder after an attorney Zooming in was unable to remove his account’s feline filter.

“I’m here live. I’m not a cat,” Presidio County Attorney Rod Ponton said in the meme-worthy exchange.

Judge Roy Ferguson showed mercy from the bench after what had to be the first civil forfeiture court hearing to go viral.

“Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace,” he said. “True professionalism all around!”

The Georgia Supreme Court hears virtual arguments in the case involving the murder of former beauty queen Tara Grinstead. Top row (from left): Chief Justice Harold Melton and Justices David Nahmias and Michael Boggs. Center row (from left): Justices Nels Peterson, Sarah Hawkins Warren, Charles Bethel and John Ellington. Bottom row (from left): Justice Carla Wong McMillian, lawyer John Merchant and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Hart. (Pete Corson/peter.corson@ajc.com)

The Georgia Supreme Court hears virtual arguments in the case involving the murder of former beauty queen Tara Grinstead. Top row (from left): Chief Justice Harold Melton and Justices David Nahmias and Michael Boggs. Center row (from left): Justices Nels Peterson, Sarah Hawkins Warren, Charles Bethel and John Ellington. Bottom row (from left): Justice Carla Wong McMillian, lawyer John Merchant and Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Hart. (Pete Corson/peter.corson@ajc.com)

Here in Georgia, although oral arguments will resume, they won’t look the same as before. The court’s nine justices, all fully vaccinated, will wear masks during the sessions as will everyone else in the courtroom. Lawyers arguing their cases will be allowed to remove their masks at the podium, if they so choose.

The courtroom gallery normally accommodates about 150 or so people, but with social distancing, that number will be limited to 34, the court said. It also said it will consider requests from lawyers to continue having some remote hearings via Zoom.

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