Judge Dismisses Case Due to Attorneys’ Refusal to Wear Masks

The courtroom (at least metaphorically) is a near-sacred place and institution in American culture – if not all cultures, internationally. In the United States, the courtroom is holds an important place not only in our legal system, but also a place in our films, TV shows, and collective consciousness. Even if you haven’t been involved in a trial, you’ve probably seen one on TV, and through this living-room exposure you’ll know that all courtrooms have rules.

As a car accident attorney from a law office like JGB Legal can readily explain, in a court, there are the basic rules that people agree to follow just by making an appearance. This involves making sure that you dress nicely, and conduct yourself politely when you stand before a judge. Of course, there are also the very basic ground rules like making sure you don’t drink or smoke any illegal substances.

But, there are also new rules regarding COVID-19: Social distancing and wearing that all-important mask. Scientists and medical researchers have deemed masks to be our best line of defense (apart from a vaccine), and mandates have been put in place to ensure people wear a mask at all times in all public indoor spaces. That includes courtrooms – and when a courthouse has a rule, the court enforces it. This turned out to be the case when a plaintiff lost their personal case simply because their lawyer refused to wear a mask.

This maskless showdown took place in New York. The case: A car crash had fractured the plaintiff’s leg. Upon the plaintiff’s appearance, their lawyer refused to wear his mask, stating that he couldn’t breathe while wearing a face covering. Whether or not the 68-year-old attorney was actually unable to breathe through a mask hasn’t been debunked yet, but what eventually did occur in the courthouse is more certain.

The judge insisted that the attorney wear their mask, citing the mandated mask rule and the half-a-million deceased as a result of the virus. The judge called for a focus on the deceased, but she also stated that she too had been hospitalized with COVID, and reminded those in attendance that wearing a  mask is the mandated protocol against further spread of the virus. Afterwards, the lawyer emphasized that he was not against the mask rule, but rather that he simply could not breathe through a mask and that he was sweating from the effort.

This back-and-forth ended with the judge throwing out the case, resulting in the plaintiff effectively losing the trial. The judge told media that even though she had dismissed the case, the plaintiff would have legal recourse to continue litigation. In the meantime, however, it does beg the question of whether or not the lawyer was unable to breathe through a mask – and if so, what arrangements could  the court or lawyer have made in advance to address this possibility?