This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The Jones County Clerk of Courts is closed until November 16.
PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — To protect others as well as themselves, South Dakota Unified Judicial System employees in the state Capitol and another building in Pierre began wearing face masks Monday at times they were outside their own offices.
Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson told KELOLAND News the email went out Friday.
“That is the way we generally handle employee issues rather than the slower and more cumbersome method of an official order. It is employee option when they are in their private offices,” the chief justice said.
He continued, “We have had a few employees come down with COVID this past week and I thought based on my personal research and discussions with senior staff that it was time to move in that direction. I am leading by example. I am wearing a mask in compliance with my own directive.”
Gilbertson is letting the presiding judges in the seven circuits make decisions for the 62 county courthouses throughout South Dakota.
“I have done so on the premise that the presiding judges are closer to the day by day operations of the courthouses and I have full confidence they will make the right call,” he said. “So far this system has in my opinion worked exceptionally well since it was implemented by me last March.”
The Jones County Courthouse in Murdo closed Monday at 8:12 a.m .because of COVID-19 and is expected to reopen at 8 a.m. The Jones County Clerk of Courts is closed until November 16. People needing immediate assistance can contact the Circuit Administration office at 605-773-3712. Closure information is at ujs.sd.gov.
Gilbertson said face coverings won’t be required for participating attorneys and justices when the Supreme Court holds its November term next week. He said clarity of speech is essential.
“Over a 50 minute oral argument a mask may inhibit that. Also, the oral arguments are carried live over the internet to the press and public and we do not want what is said to be garbled because of a mask,” he said.