June 19, 2021
Lawrence, US 87 F
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Douglas County District Court to continue requiring masks to avoid bias

All people entering courtrooms, court offices or adjacent hallways will still be required to wear masks in Douglas County District Court, despite the county’s mask mandate and health order expiring last week.

Chief Judge James McCabria issued an administrative order Wednesday updating courtroom protocols amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The order acknowledges that health experts’ recommendations at the national and state levels have loosened for some situations, but “This Court considers that the special consideration of ‘Equal Justice Under Law’ is a foundational concept unique in its application to court proceedings.”

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“Asking people to conduct themselves differently based on vaccination status has the potential to impact the fair, unbiased and equal application of procedural due process that all citizens are entitled to receive within this Judicial District,” the administrative order says.

However, the order notes that the presiding judge may waive face coverings for some or all participants in any given hearing when appropriate, safe, or constitutionally required.

The new order also maintains physical distancing of 6 feet in all courtrooms and hallways for people who don’t share the same household, though the presiding judge may waive that, too.

When entering the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, rather than having court security officers ask health screening questions, the questions will be posted on signs. The signs will direct people not to proceed into the courthouse if they’ve had any signs of illness or fever, had close contact with someone who might have COVID-19, or traveled to any areas on quarantine lists.

The order went into effect Wednesday.

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