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Hawai‘i State Judiciary to Lift Pandemic Protocols

March 22, 2022, 9:31 AM HST
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The Hawai‘i State Judiciary plans to lift pandemic-related restrictions on March 26.

The end of the judiciaryʻs COVID-19 protocols comes after Gov. David Ige announced the state will lift all pandemic-related rules, including indoor mask-wearing.

Keahuolu Courthouse Kona Judiciary Complex. PC: Tiffany DeMasters

Beginning March 26, the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Circuits will lift COVID-19 emergency orders and no longer require health screening upon entry. Mask wearing will become optional for employees and court users as well.

“Given Governor Ige’s announcements easing COVID-19 restrictions, we are making adjustments to Judiciary operations, taking into consideration the circumstances and situations in each circuit as we continue to protect the health and safety of court users and Judiciary personnel,” said Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.

Recktenwald announced that his statewide orders pertaining to entering Judiciary facilities for the public and attorneys, which include attorney vaccination and testing requirements, will be rescinded effective March 26.

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The chief judges of each circuit have issued orders pertaining to their safety precautions, reflecting COVID-19 case counts and risk indicators in their communities and the volume of court users relative to their courthouse capacities.

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The Appellate Courts and facilities in the 1st Circuit will, for the time being, continue with many COVID-19 precautions, including mask usage. This approach reflects the higher positive case counts on O‘ahu, larger number of people in these facilities, the limited size of our courtrooms and common areas, and ventilation resources.

The employee vaccination and testing program and post-travel restrictions will also be lifted effective March 26.

“Although not required, we continue to strongly encourage all Judiciary employees to get fully vaccinated, including a booster shot,” Recktenwald said.

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The judiciary has been hampered by COVID-related protocols for the past two years. During that time, remote court hearings became commonplace to help cases progress. These virtual hearings will continue for certain case types at the discretion of the presiding court.

“We conducted over 360,000 hearings by Zoom in the last two years. This enabled the courts to continue to fulfill their responsibility to administer justice during the pandemic,” said Recktenwald. “Attorneys, parties, and other court users have appreciated the time-saving convenience of participating in their hearings by Zoom.”

Recktenwald said the judiciary is mindful that the pandemic is not over and they will remain vigilant and prepared to shift course should the situation change.

“While we sincerely hope the worst is truly behind us, we will use the lessons learned to better serve the people of Hawaii in the future,” the Chief Justice said.

Recktenwald expressed his appreciation to judges and staff for their efforts in shifting to a mostly in-person operation to remote technology in an effort to administer justice in a timely manner. He also thanked attorneys and court users for their patience.

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