(Knock on Wood) — NY Courts Lift Facemask and 3-Foot Physical Distancing Requirements
Effective June 16, 2022, New York courthouse visitors, lawyers, judges, and staff will no longer be required to wear masks, with proof of vaccination, in light of receding COVID rates. Also being lifted in the courthouses is the three-foot physical distancing requirement. (The policy identifies a vaccination card or a New York State Excelsior Plus Vaccination Pass as proof of vaccination.) These steps are part of an effort to return the Court to full operations and are a return to the model that was in place throughout the Unified Court System last summer.
The changes come as welcomed news to some practitioners who found it difficult to hear statements in Court, have their statements heard, or speak discretely to their clients. Masks also interfered with measuring a witness’ credibility or the ability to develop a rapport with jurors. On the civil side, with many appearances remaining virtual with some exceptions, mask or no mask is of little consequence. But in person, we’re getting closer to normalcy.
A color-coded system will be in place within the Courthouse Courts with court visitors receiving a white pass and an attorney/agency a green pass that will permit entry without a health safety screening and without wearing a facemask. These passes must be worn on the outermost piece of clothing. The attorney/agency pass will be valid for six months from the issuance date or one year from the date of last vaccination or booster dose, whichever is shorter. Judges and employees of the Unified Court System will display a valid, unexpired orange card to enter all areas of the court without a facemask. Local and national COVID trends will remain closely and thoughtfully monitored, to provide a public compelled to enter the space with the utmost protections and considerations.
We will refrain from calling this development “the beginning of the end” of COVID, because, well, we’ve done that before, and believe in jinxes! Thanks to John Diffley for his contribuition to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.