Georgia Chief Justice Michael Boggs

ATLANTA – Backlogs of pending court cases that built up during the pandemic are on the decline, Georgia Chief Justice Michael Boggs said Wednesday.

But shortages of prosecutors, public defenders, court reporters, and other court staff continue to plague the court system, Boggs told a joint session of the General Assembly during the annual State of the Judiciary address.

“Judges alone cannot move criminal cases without prosecutors,” he said. “Nothing can be done without court reporters.”

Boggs said an influx of federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 has helped judicial circuits hire more staff and upgrade technology. Forty-six of the state’s 50 judicial circuits have taken advantage of ARPA funding, he said.

As a result, the backlog of cases has declined by 11% on average statewide, Boggs said.

With Georgia also suffering from a shortage of judges, Boggs urged lawmakers to pass House Bill 947, which would overhaul the system for paying superior court judges, justices of the Georgia Supreme Court, justices of the state Court of Appeals, and the judge of the Georgia State-wide Business Court.

Boggs also supported proposed legislation to require that personal information on judges, such as their addresses, be kept confidential to help protect them from growing threats to judges across the nation.

“These attacks and threats are meant to intimidate,” he said. “Georgia judges will not be threatened or intimidated into abandoning their constitutional duties.”

The chief justice also cited a revision of rules the state Supreme Court approved last fall aimed at increasing the availability of lawyers in rural communities. Under the revision, spouses of active-duty service members who are lawyers will be able to obtain provisional law licenses without taking the bar exam.