Masks not required in court for fully vaccinated people

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times
This sign is posted near the entrance to the Justice Center, which houses offices and courtrooms for Leavenworth County District Court.

People who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 are no longer required to wear face coverings when visiting Leavenworth County District Court offices or courtrooms.

The change went into effect Tuesday.

Court Administrator Steve Crossland said court officials are relying on the honor system in terms of who is fully vaccinated.

The change in the mask requirement comes after the Kansas Supreme Court issued an administrative order last week, calling on the chief judges of the state’s judicial districts to develop “minimum standard health protocols to avoid exposing court users, staff, and judicial officers to COVID-19.”

“We have done that,” Crossland said.

Leavenworth County is part of the state’s 1st Judicial District. Judge David King is the chief judge for the district.

A document outlining Leavenworth County District Court’s new minimum standard health protocols states court officials have “met, and consulted with, the Leavenworth County Health Department Director to determine what currently constitutes safe health protocols for court users and employees. In doing so, the court recognizes that it should continue to utilize precautionary measures so as not to undermine public confidence in the courts and damage the integrity of trial by jury.”

The document states COVID-19 screening will continue through the use of “visitor alert” signs that include prompts for people who may have symptoms of the disease or recently came into contact with an infected person.

Physical distancing, or social distancing, is not required, but signs will encourage people to practice social distancing.

People who are not fully vaccinated are required to wear face coverings in courtrooms and court offices unless they have a medical condition that excuses them from wearing masks. A judge also can direct someone to remove a mask during a court proceeding.

District court officials also plan to continue to conduct remote proceedings. The Zoom online videoconferencing service has been used for many court proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crossland said the new minimum health protocols also will impact a previously approved process for resuming jury trials in Leavenworth County District Court.

Jury trials have been suspended for more than a year. But Leavenworth County District Court may have a jury trial in a criminal case next week.

“We really want to get trials going,” Crossland said.

He said Leavenworth County District Court may begin up to two trials each Monday in order to catch up on a backlog of cases that has developed during the pandemic.

District Judge Gerald Kuckelman, who is assigned to the criminal docket, and King will be presiding over the trials.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR