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Bar Buzz: Mask up before going to court

Starting July 13, everyone entering a Minnesota courthouse—even judges and staff—must wear a face mask.

That order was handed down by Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea on July 7.

People visiting any of the state’s 105 court facilities are expected to bring their own face coverings. If they don’t have one, a mask will be provided.

In a written statement, Gildea said the order will allow the Judicial Branch to keeping expanding court services and in-person proceedings during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, even in cases when physical distance cannot be maintained.

Under the order, masks may only be removed in public areas of court facilities when six feet of physical distance can be maintained or if Plexiglas barriers are in place.

If unusual circumstances dictate that someone remove their mask, but physical distance cannot be maintained, the order says that judges have discretion to authorize mask removal, as long as alternatives like face shields or Plexiglas barriers are available.

Before you enter a courthouse, the Judicial Branch recommends visiting the Safe Reopening web page to review the branch’s updated COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

The order follows a national public opinion survey by the National Center for State Courts released on June 24. It found that 70% of respondents would feel more comfortable visiting a court facility where masks are required for employees and visitors.

All court visitors also are asked to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure before entering a court facility. Anyone who has been exposed, or who is experiencing symptoms, should contact the court or their attorney rather than go to the courthouse.

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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