Published on: Sunday, June 6, 2021

A federal court in South Dakota has created strict COVID-19 rules for its courthouse based on vaccination status in an order that again criticizes the U.S. Marshals Service (articla available here). The rules will allow unvaccinated deputy marshals to continue their job ahead of a June 14 contempt hearing against three high-ranking officials

Deputies can "basically go to their office and the courtroom" but not into the judge's chambers like they sometimes do, said the Aberdeen-based court.  Anyone who is not fully vaccinated must wear a N95 or double mask when they are inside the federal courthouse in Aberdeen, the judge wrote in his order last week. Unvaccinated people must also stay six feet away from others. 

Unvaccinated people, even if they are following the mask rules, are not allowed in offices of the judges, law clerks and judicial assistant. They can't enter the library, copy room, jury room or the bathroom next to the copy room. They may, however, enter the offices of the USMS, court security and clerks. They can also be in the hallways, elevators, conference room and all other bathrooms. 

The judge criticized the USMS in his order for allegedly failing to secure the Aberdeen courthouse and said this increased safety risk influenced his strict COVID-19 rules. "I know of no other courthouse in the United States where prisoners are within the "'secure area' of the courthouse and located adjacent to the chambers of the Court," the judge wrote. "This has presented a dangerous situation ever since I took office in 1995 and has never been addressed, although widely known. The danger has increased with onset of the COVID-19 pandemic."