Public Health

Some Texas courts agree to courthouse mask mandates despite governor's contrary order

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Courts in at least four counties in Texas will require masks in courthouses despite an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that bans mask mandates.

Courts in Harris, Williamson, Dallas and Bexar counties in Texas are requiring masks, report the Houston Chronicle (here and here) and the Austin American-Statesman.

Several judges in the state are also requiring masks in their courtrooms, the Houston Chronicle said.

Some courts acted after the Texas Office of Court Administration informed judges that they have power to enact rules independent of the executive branch.

Judges cited an opinion last year by Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said courts can require people entering courthouses and in courtrooms to wear facial coverings. Judges also noted Texas Supreme Court guidance that judges may take reasonable action to avoid exposing court participants to the coronavirus.

The Harris County order calls for masks to be worn inside civil, criminal, family and juvenile court buildings. The order would also apply to county judges in a shared building with state district judges, county attorney Christian Menefee told the Houston Chronicle.

The Williamson County order requires those who enter and work at courthouses to wear masks in public areas.

Hat tip @GabMoBanks.

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