Indiana Southern District Court lifts mask, social distancing mandates

Visitors of the federal courthouses in the Southern District of Indiana won’t be required to wear face coverings or socially distance while entering and occupying public spaces beginning next week, according to a Wednesday order from Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.

The general order, effective March 7, came pursuant to unanimous votes by the Facility Security Committees for the federal courthouses in the Southern District of Indiana. The move comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health authorities have revised guidance on the necessity of face coverings and physical distancing.

In August 2021, the Southern Indiana District Court imposed restrictions mandating all individuals must wear masks and social distance in public spaces in the district’s courthouses, regardless of their vaccination status.

Superseding the district court’s August order, Wednesday’s order applies to the Birch Bayh Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Indianapolis, the Lee H. Hamilton Federal Building and United States Courthouse in New Albany, the Winfield K. Denton Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Evansville and the Terre Haute Federal Courthouse.

“It is noted, however, that face coverings are recommended to stop the spread of COVID-19, and that staying up to date on vaccinations reduces the risk of becoming seriously ill,” Pratt wrote in the order.

Despite the eased precautions, court security officers will ask members of the public entering the courthouses health screening questions.

Tenant agencies in the courthouses will be permitted to determine the face covering and social distancing policies in their own spaces, according to provisions in the order. Additionally, judges will 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.

Anyone summoned for jury service and court staff interacting with those individuals must wear face coverings while in rooms and public spaces designated for juror check-in, orientation and related activities until entering the courtroom. Only then will the rules and requirements of the presiding judge take effect, the order says.

Pro se filings submitted via email will continue to be accepted. Drop boxes for filings also remain accessible at all courthouses.

Individuals found to have violated the order may be held in contempt of court, cited and/or expelled from the courthouse.

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