LaGrange, Ga. (WRBL) – As the COVID-19 pandemic eases it’s grips on the Peach State. Georgia probate court training is back in session.
Probate court judges and employees from all 159 counties across the state attended the training in person or virtually. The four day event took place at the Great Wolf Lodge Resort in LaGrange.
Judge Thomas Lakes, President of the Georgia Probate Court Council said they’ve continued to train virtually after the pandemic shut down much of the country last year. However, this is the first time they offered a hybrid option.
“So many people come through our courts whether it’s to probate above ones estate, or establish a guardianship or conservatorship for an adult or a minor, or to apply for a marriage license or weapons carry license.” said Judge Lakes. “So we’re probably one of the more common courts that people come in contact with. It’s vitally important that we stay up to date and trained on the issues that come before us, so we can better serve our communities.”
Judge Lakes is in the beginning of his Presidency for the Georgia Probate Court Council and is focusing his tenure on accessibility for the constituents by continuing to offer virtual options where it makes sense, e-filing to allow people the opportunity to file their petitions for probate court without having to appear in person and responding to certain legislation that will effect the courts.
Judge Lakes said an area they’ve encountered a push for change is how they handle weapons carry licenses.
“We’ve been hampered in many of our larger courts with being able to handle the increased applications for those,” said Judge Lakes. “So coming up with ways that we can ease the burden on those courts and also meet the demand is going to be a challenge.”
Judge Lakes said in Harris County, demand has nearly double for weapons carry licenses since the pandemic, a trend that is being seen throughout the state.
Harris County went from processing 1600 weapons carry licenses in the 10 months they were open last year, to being on trend for 2400 this year, a number Judge Lakes said continues to increase every month.
“We’re seeing this past year since the pandemic started it really makes no rhyme or reason, everyone, it’s just across all demographics, all ages groups that are applying,” said Judge Lakes. “You have to be 21 years of age at least in Georgia to apply, among other restrictions of course, but that has driven the demand we have seen across some counties as much as a two fold difference.”
Judge lakes says even in our larger counties like Cobb we’re seeing the increase as well. A previous high for Cobb was 13,000-15,000 applications and their now trending to do more than 24,000.
Many of the courts continue to do applications by appointment only because of COVID-19. One of these places is Judge Lakes home court, Harris County, where even the finger prints are handled by the Clerks.
“We feel like we are able to actually handle more applicants doing them by appointment and in a safer environment, than if we just let it to be first come, first serve, and trying to handle the unpredictable number of people that can show up in our lobby.” said Judge Lakes.
Judge Lakes added it was nice to be able to get together and see a lot of their colleagues for the first time since the pandemic began.