Guidance COVID-19 Pandemic: Additional Guidance Related to Entry of the Public into Courthouses
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On July 9, 2020 the Administrative Office of the Security Department issued COVID-19 Pandemic; Health Safety Protocols for Members of the Public Entering Courthouses. This directive identified a set of health screening questions and implemented elevated body temperature screening for all members of the public entering a courthouse. Additionally, a directive titled COVID-19 Pandemic; Managing Courthouse Occupancy was also released on July 9, 2020. This directive identified limits on the occupancy level of courthouse buildings as the primary method of controlling access into courthouses. The following supplemental guidance is provided to further refine the process for public access into our courthouses.
It has been observed that since July 13, 2020 when courthouses reopened to the public for limited services and courtroom events, some members of the public have come to courthouses for reasons and services that are not yet being offered in-person. In the interest of improving efficiency, providing a higher level of service to the public, and to limit unnecessary entries and exposures in the courthouses, court officers and associates are additionally instructed to inquire with the visitor during the entry screening process about their purpose for coming to the courthouse. In reply to their response, officers can provide court visitors with information about how and where to obtain their desired service and may provide them with alternatives to completing their court business in person, such as using a drop box, on line resources, or via telephone. Officers may use docket lists, appointment records, or other resources available locally to assist in this process and are encouraged to communicate directly with the various courthouse entities to confirm the availability of an in-person service or event should uncertainty exist. In some cases it may be necessary that an officer request that a representative of a courthouse department intercede directly, personally or by telephone, with a court visitor to resolve a matter.
In the event a court visitor insists on entering the courthouse, despite being provided alternatives by an officer, that person shall be allowed into the courthouse if they successfully complete the health and security screening process. In this instance the intended destination of the court visitor should be notified.
It is my understanding that procedures described in this memorandum are already in place in many courthouses and the intent of this communication is to validate those actions and to encourage uniformity in practice across the state. This guidance is effective upon receipt and will periodically be re-evaluated as in-person services increase within the courthouses and the conditions of the pandemic evolve. This memo may be shared with courthouse departments and resident non-employees (tenants) so that they understand the role and limitations of officers related to this issue.