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What you need to know about protocols and procedures in courthouses during COVID-19

Learn about entry screening, personal protective equipment (PPE), and social distancing in Massachusetts courts.

Table of Contents

Entry screening and masks

Court users and employees should self-screen before coming to court. If you have a cough or fever, or have been exposed to someone who is COVID-positive or is presumed to be COVID positive, please do not go to the courthouse.

It is important to note that personal protective equipment should not take the place of the following protective actions:

  • frequent hand washing 
  • the frequent use of hand sanitizers 
  • frequent cleaning of work stations 
  • avoiding unnecessary physical contact such as handshaking 
  • refraining from touching one’s mouth, nose and eyes
  • maintaining social distancing (implementing the six foot rule)

For the public

Court officers will ask court users a short series of health screening questions. Court users must wear a mask at all times when in the presence of others. Any accommodation requested exception for health reasons related to the wearing of a mask or face covering will be referred to the court’s ADA coordinator. It is suggested that you contact the court in advance to discuss such a request. 

See: Directive: COVID-19 Pandemic; Health Safety Protocols for Members of the Public Entering Courthouses and Additional Guidance Related to Entry of the Public into Courthouses

For staff 

Staff are required to wear masks whenever they are in the company of others. The Trial Court is providing personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for a variety of work responsibilities. Staff also have the option of wearing their own masks.

Probation, facilities & security staff will use PPE designated for the function being performed.

See: Directive: COVID-19 Pandemic; Courthouse Staff Health Screening and Directive: COVID-19 Pandemic; Required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Social distancing and occupancy limits

For staff and the public

  • All employees and court users must observe social distancing.
  • A study has been made of every building, and every area within each building, to determine the capacity that will maintain appropriate social distancing. Building occupancy limits have been reduced based on social distancing requirements.
  • Occupancy limits, based upon CDC and Mass. Department of Public Health recommendations for social distancing, are posted on signs for various areas within the courthouse, including the elevator. Landlords of buildings where the Trial Court leases space may begin to make stairwells accessible to limit elevator waiting lines.
  • The number of people in a courthouse, or in a specific area of the courthouse, is limited to ensure social distancing. You may need to wait in another area, if a clerk’s office has reached capacity.
  • In buildings with multiple court departments, the departments within the courthouse manage the occupancy of their spaces.
  • Courts may provide a drop-box in a secure and accessible location at the courthouse entrance for court users to deliver pleadings or documents for filing without having to enter a clerk's office.
  • Court users are encouraged to make appointments, whenever possible.

See: Directive: COVID-19 Pandemic; Managing Courthouse Occupancy

Detainees

Detainees must wear a surgical-style mask in custody; the court will provide a disposable mask, if needed.

Court Officers will check detainees' temperatures prior to accepting them to custody. If the detainee has a temperature of 100+ degrees:

  • The Trial Court shall not take immediate custody.
  • The Court Officer will retest after 10 minutes to confirm the higher temperature.
  • If the higher temperature is confirmed, the Court Officer will deny transfer of custody and follow notification protocol.

Every detainee will be placed in an individual cell, regardless of the size of the cell.

See: Directive: COVID-19 Pandemic; Detainee Intake

Date published: July 28, 2020
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