The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey has ordered that all visitors to federal courthouses in the District must show proof of double-vaccination to gain entry beginning September 20, 2021. The Order requires the production of a vaccination card or an electronic app which “produces a digital health record.”
The Order provides for an alternative of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before entry. PCR test results reportedly are available 24 to 48 hours after testing.
Courthouse “visitors” expressly subject to the Order include: attorneys, criminal defendants (including federal detainees), government agents, investigators, employees of counsel, parties or party representatives in civil matters, witnesses, employees of state and federal law enforcement agencies (including Deputy U.S. Marshals and Court Security Officers), members of the press, observers of court proceedings, contractors, and vendors.
Expressly excepted from the vaccine mandate are petit and grand jurors, individuals younger than 12 years of age, and persons who will be onsite in Court facilities for less than 15 minutes. However, parties in civil trials may petition the presiding judge to require that all sitting jurors be fully vaccinated. The order does not provide the same for criminal trials. Presumably civil trial jurors who are not fully vaccinated may be excused from jury duty.
Criminal defendants in detention must be fully vaccinated or tested and then quarantined (apparently for up to 72 hours) prior to any in-person court appearances. Remote video or telephonic appearances may be used for initial appearances, arraignments, detention hearings, and preliminary hearings upon the consent of the defendant. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Marshall’s Service are to coordinate notification of appearances and schedule testing to avoid delays and adjournments of appearances due to the mandate.
The Order follows President Biden’s recent Executive Order that all federal workers and contractors must be vaccinated, including federal court employees. The District of New Jersey has required all employees to be fully vaccinated by October 19, 2021. At the time of writing, neighboring federal districts do not mandate vaccination for courthouse visitors, nor does the New Jersey state court system.
The vaccine mandate does not affect the additional requirements of mask wearing, hand sanitizing, and social distancing currently in place in New Jersey federal courthouses.