Coronavirus and the courts

mccormack

Michigan Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack captured the sentiment felt by many in the state court community about the impact the pandemic has had on courts, when she said the pandemic was not the disruption we wanted, but the disruption we needed.”
About the Pandemic Rapid Response Team

In March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators established a Rapid Response Team (RRT), staffed by NCSC, that created a roadmap to help state courts move forward during the pandemic – and after it ends. Through three working groups – court management, technology, and communications and funding – the RRT has identified and developed innovations and new practices that will strengthen courts moving forward.

  • NCSC’s Measures and Practices for Ensuring a Safe and Secure Courthouse Environment During and After a Pandemic gathers lessons learned and catalogs health and safety measures and changes in business practices. The report also includes recommendations for state court leaders to follow as the pandemic ebbs and flows and even after it has ended.
  • NCSC has issued Things a Court Manager Should Consider Regarding Remote Work to assist court leaders who are evaluating remote work policies. The document outlines initial considerations and remote work basics while also providing policy excerpts and examples that can assist courts with developing a policy that meets the needs of their organization.
  • Delaware:  The chief justice orders mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated court employees.
  • Guam: The chief justice issued an order requiring employees to vaccinate or submit to weekly testing. If they refuse, they shall be subject to administrative or disciplinary procedures.
  • Hawaii:  The Hawaii State Judiciary announced that beginning September 27 all employees must be vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.
  • Maryland:  The chief judge issued an emergency order requiring state judiciary personnel to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by September 27, 2021, or until vaccinated, submit weekly tests proving their negative status in order to report to work.
  • Massachusetts: The Executive Office of the Trial Court issued a policy to require vaccine reporting and weekly testing for unvaccinated staff.
  • New York:  The new protocols will require all Unified Court System judges and non-judicial employees who have not been vaccinated to be tested regularly for COVID-19.
  • Oregon:  The chief justice issued an order imposing vaccination requirement.  All judges and staff must have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before October 1, 2021, and must provide proof before October 1, 2021.
  • Washington: The Supreme Court issued an order stating that a worker must either be vaccinated or qualify for an exemption to be eligible for employment at the Supreme Court.

NCSC collected hundreds of emergency orders from state Supreme Courts as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. While almost all of them have either expired or been superseded by newer orders, you can access the entire collection here, or you can review selected orders by issue area here.

  • NCSC hosted a Facebook live event on March 5 to discuss the impact the coronavirus is having on courts and what courts can do in response. The event, which was sponsored by the State Justice Institute, featured Nora Sydow, a Principal Court Management Consultant and staff to the CCJ/COSCA 2016 Pandemic and Emergency Response Task Force and project director for the 2019 CCJ/COSCA National Pandemic Summit.
  • This Preparing for a Pandemic blueprint guides state and local court leaders without an existing pandemic benchbook to create one, and prompts states with a benchbook to keep it updated. (Appendix B provides templates and checklists).
  • The Texas benchbook was updated in 2020.

For two days in May 2019, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican hosted the National Pandemic Summit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, home to the country’s largest biocontainment unit. The summit, which now looks to be ahead of its time, brought court leaders, public health officials, legislators, and executive branch officials from 25 states and three territories together to start a conversation on how states need to plan and prepare for a pandemic, which often includes quarantines that raise many potential legal issues. The summit, the first-of-its-kind, was funded through a grant from the State Justice Institute and staffed by the National Center for State Courts.

Go here to read more about the summit.

Contact Us

Have information to share about how your court is responding?  Submit it to pandemic@ncsc.org.
MEDIA INQUIRIES: Please contact Molly Justice at 757-259-1564.