The Judicial Council of Georgia Ad Hoc Committee on ARPA Funding has awarded grants totaling $20,712,972 to be distributed among 39 judicial circuits that applied for CY 2024 – 2025 funding. The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit (LMJC), which includes Walker County, received $1,702,543, the largest amount awarded by the committee.
The funds will be used to upgrade the audio and video systems in LMJC courtrooms to help address the current case backlog. Superior Court Judge Chris Arnt says remote hearings also save counties money. “We use video hearings all the time, even though it’s more work for us as judges to do it that way, that saves the county thousands upon thousands of dollars not having to go to all of the prisons all over the state and bring folks back here for us to have a hearing,” said Arnt.
Approved grant expenses in this category include evidence presentation tools, assisted listening systems, video conferencing and remote appearance systems, improved court reporting interfaces, and general audio and video improvements aimed at assisting the circuits in reducing their backlog of serious violent felony cases.
Background on Judicial ARPA Funding
Georgia’s judiciary operated under a Statewide Judicial Emergency Order from March 2020 through June 2021. The order placed necessary limitations on court operations to protect the health and safety of those working in and coming to courthouses during this time but also resulted in a backlog of criminal and civil cases, particularly those requiring jury trials to resolve.
In October 2021, Gov. Brian P. Kemp announced the allocation to the judicial branch of $110 million of ARPA funds to address backlogs of court cases, particularly cases involving serious violent felonies. The Judicial Council is administering $96 million of that total for eligible courts, prosecutors, and related agencies. The remaining $14 million in ARPA funds was allocated to the Georgia Public Defender Council for grants to public defenders.
The Committee, chaired by Supreme Court of Georgia Chief Justice Michael P. Boggs, is overseeing the application process for the grants, and the Judicial Council’s Administrative Office of the Courts is facilitating the grant application, award, compliance, and reporting processes. All funds allocated to the judicial branch must be spent by December 31, 2026.