Southern District to lift mask, social distancing mandates for fully vaccinated individuals

Individuals who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask inside public spaces at Indiana’s Southern District courthouses beginning next month, Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt announced in a Tuesday order.

The Indiana Northern District Court, however, is continuing to require face coverings in most situations.

A general order issued Tuesday by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana announced the court’s mask mandate change following a unanimous vote by the Facility Security Committees for the federal courthouses in the Southern District. The change takes effect June 7.

On that date, fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to access public areas of the four courthouses of the Southern District of Indiana without wearing a face covering or observing social distancing. The court has locations in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Evansville and New Albany.

Fully vaccinated as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means two weeks have passed since a person received the second dose of a two-dose vaccine series like Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.

Members of the public who are not fully vaccinated must still wear a face covering and practice social distancing throughout the courthouses, the order says. Also, judges “have the authority to determine such policies in their courtrooms, chambers, and any other spaces in which a court proceeding is being conducted, including at naturalization ceremonies.”

Exceptions will still be made for those who provide documentation stating that they are unable, for medical reasons, to wear a face covering. Any person who is not fully vaccinated seeking entry to a courthouse who refuses to wear a face covering will be denied entry to the courthouse, the order says.

All persons entering a courthouse will be asked a series of health screening questions, according to the order.

When it comes to jury duty, all vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals summoned for jury service and court staff will still be required to wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing requirements. That requirement stands for those who are in rooms and public spaces designated for juror check-in, orientation and related activities until such persons enter a courtroom, at which time the rules and requirements of the presiding judge take effect.

Pursuant to previous orders, potential jurors can be temporarily excused due to undue hardship or extreme inconvenience. In those situations, potential jurors will be summoned again at a later date or will be reinserted into the jury wheel.

Tuesday’s order supersedes the district court’s June 12, 2020, order and modifies any other order referencing it.

Pro se litigants can continue to submit filings via email. 

More information about the Southern District Court’s COVID policies is available online. 

On Monday, the Indiana Northern District Court issued an order requiring face coverings in public areas of the courthouses in Fort Wayne, Hammond, Lafayette and South Bend. Employees and contractors of tenants of those courthouses who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks while within the space occupied by their employing agency unless an employee is interacting with members of the public.

Violators of the Northern District order can be held in contempt and/or expelled from the courthouse until the chief judge grants a petition to reinstate access. As in the Southern District, exceptions will be made for people with documented medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering.

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