Local Attorneys Call For Stronger COVID Precautions At Courthouses

Thursday, August 13th 2020, 6:30 pm
By: Jennifer Pierce

A group of local attorneys is calling for more COVID-19 precautions at courthouses in the state. They are concerned that the largest courthouse in state does not require everyone to wear a mask.

Beginning next week, the Oklahoma County courthouse will be packed with people as jury trials resume.Attorney Shelia Shoemake fears it will potentially put lives at risk.

“Face mask wearing has to be mandatory,” said attorney Shelia Shoemake. “And we put everyone at risk when even one person isn’t doing that.”

Shoemake travels all over the state to represent clients in court. She is concerned that the Oklahoma County courthouse does not require masks in all areas of the building. Even judges have their own policies.

“It’s hit and miss at Oklahoma County,” said Shoemake. “Some require it, some don’t require it.”

Shoemake and some of her colleagues are calling for stronger mask measures.

“I’m worried about those of us who are vulnerable,” said Shoemake. “I have clients who have gone through chemotherapy and are very ill and they’re required to be there. If they’re not they will get a warrant.”

County officials said a mask mandate cannot be enforced legally or for medical reasons.

“We put a disclaimer below the poster that you can’t be questioned about it for health reasons,” said Brian Maughan, Oklahoma County Commissioner. “We have HIPPA considerations.”

The attorneys said they are grateful measures were put in place for jurors when they enter the building next week.

“However, there is still cause for concern in my opinion,” said attorney Joi Miskel. “Because you have so many people in enclosed spaces.”

They said now is the time to make changes before it is too late.

“I have concerns that we might look back in three or four weeks and wish we had done more,” said attorney Jaqui Ford.

As for jurors - their temperatures will be taken, they are required to wear a mask and will not sit in a jury box. They will be spread out in the courtrooms.