Unvaccinated judge who shunned masks will mostly preside in civil video hearings

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An unvaccinated city court judge who didn't wear a mask will be mostly handling civil matters remotely, according to a spokesperson for the New York state court system.

Law360 has the story on Judge Frank M. Mora of Poughkeepsie, New York.

Mora had been ordered to stay out of his courtroom after his request for a religious exemption was denied, the Mid Hudson News reported Jan. 21. The courtroom ban does not extend to city hall, where the court is located, according to the publication.

Court spokesperson Lucian Chalfen told Law360 that Mora will no longer handle arraignments, trials and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases.

“As he is not in compliance with the chief judge’s vaccination mandate, he is required to handle cases virtually from home. This limits the type of cases that he can handle,” Chalfen told Law360. “Since criminal arraignments and criminal trials cannot be handled virtually, he will not be permitted to conduct either.”

Chalfen said other judges will assist in matters that Mora is unable to handle.

Chalfen told Law360 that the reassignment was not a disciplinary action, although judges who ignore the court’s vaccination policy subject themselves to “the possibility of a referral” to judicial disciplinary authorities.

Mora told Mid Hudson News that he sought a religious exemption because “my religious beliefs, and those of my family, do not endorse a government-mandated vaccine.” He said he has been presiding virtually in cases and has not been in the court since Jan. 3.

But Law360 spoke with unnamed sources who reported that Mora had continued going to the building housing his courtroom while wearing only a face shield, even though he didn’t conduct court hearings in person.

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