Coming innovations, thought-provoking trends, questions that matter to the court community, these and more themes are covered by the Court Leader’s Advantage podcast series, a forum by court professionals for court professionals to share experiences and lessons learned.
These last two turbulent years have brought into sharp relief the dynamic tension between a court’s duty to keep both employees and the public safe, and the duty to respect the privacy and the personal choices of those very same employees and the public. This conversation is taking place at a time when many of us thought (or at least hoped), that these kinds of discussions were behind us. We could move on. Yet, as of December of 2021 the recent appearance of yet another COVID variant has raised a new round of concerns.
Three examples suggest points where work life has become increasingly intrusive, yet employees and the public are still at risk.
1) As court offices reopen, some returning employees have refused to disclose their vaccine status. This can put those very same employees as well as others at a higher risk of contracting COVID.
2) As more courthouses open again for staff and the public, some members of the public refuse to disclose their vaccine status and refuse to wear a mask. Security at the front door has occasionally refused them entry; they are therefore being denied access to justice.
3) Courthouses, as public buildings, need to be accessible to the public. However, there have been instances of employees being attacked by individuals.
Three canons of NACM’s Model Code of Conduct for Court Professionals come into play when discussing this dynamic tension:
· NACM Canon 1.1 states that a court professional faithfully carries out all appropriately assigned duties.
Is not the safety of court employees and the public a fundamental duty? What could be more basic than ensuring the health and well-being of the staff and public that comes to the courthouse every day?
· NACM Canon 1.3 states that a court professional must make the court accessible.
Presumably, the courthouse must be accessible to the public and its employees. Can court security limit public access by demanding to know if an individual has legitimate business in the courthouse?
· NACM Canon 2.7 states that a court professional respects the personal lives of litigants, the public, and employees.
How intrusive can security personnel get in demanding to know about the medical background and business of the public and employees?
Today’s Panel includes:
Courtney Whiteside, Court Administrator for the Municipal Court, in St. Louis, Missouri.
Barbara Marcelle, Trial Court Administrator for the 4th Judicial District in Portland, Oregon.
Karl Thoennes, Trial Court Administrator for the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
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