Massachusetts Courthouses Lift Most Pandemic Restrictions
In yet another positive sign that we're progressing in the right direction back towards semi-normalcy, courthouses in Massachusetts began loosening most COVID-19 restrictions starting today.
WWLP/22 News Springfield reports that as of July 12, many of the restrictions that were put in place during the pandemic have now been lifted. That's right. Things will be returning to almost pre-pandemic norms. What do I mean by almost? We'll get to that shortly.
The Supreme Judicial Court actually made the announcement about a week and a half ago. Effective today, there will no longer be capacity limits in state courthouses. Also, physical distancing is no longer required. and all courts in the Commonwealth will be open for in-person business.
However, one post-pandemic restriction will remain in effect: Facemasks. Everybody, regardless of vaccination status, will still be required to wear a mask inside the courtroom. Also, COVID-19 screenings will still take place upon entering the building.
A few key points of interest need mentioning. Some court cases will continue to take place virtually if need be. And, thanks to minimum juror notice requirements, many trials will not have access to jurors until September 7, 2021.
Also worth mentioning is that even though court officials will no longer deploy limits on when and how jury trials are conducted, some trials that would normally be tried before 12-person juries will go before 6-member juries. There is quite a logjam of cases and courts need to catch up.
Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd had this to say in a media statement:
We are truly encouraged by the progress in the Commonwealth with respect to COVID-19, and hope it will continue and allow courts to gradually return to normal. At the same time, we hope to take some of the lessons learned during the pandemic and apply them going forward, particularly when it comes to conducting certain proceedings virtually.
Keep in mind that people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results, will not be allowed inside Massachusetts courthouses. For more on the story, please visit WWLP's website here.