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Supreme Court to let administrative judges make COVID-19 rules for masks, trials

The new emergency order goes into effect on Feb. 28, and is the latest in a series of orders aimed at keeping Idaho courts open while balancing safety.

BOISE, Idaho — A new order from the Idaho Supreme Court will give administrative judges more say on what COVID-19 protocols are adhered to in courtrooms.

The new emergency order goes into effect on Feb. 28, and is the latest in a series of orders from the high court aimed at keeping Idaho courts open while balancing safety amid the pandemic.

"As of February 17, 2022, no counties in Idaho are currently subject to crisis standards of care and incident rates are on a downward trend across the state. Additionally, as of that same date, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reports there is currently a backlog of 29,800 COVID19 tests which have not been processed, rendering the seven-day moving average incident rates incomplete," the order reads. "Therefore, we have concluded that further modification of our safety protocols is warranted."

The order, announced Thursday, will allow administrative judges "full discretion over health precautions," including use of masks, social distancing, use of remote hearings, and whether jury trials and grand jury proceedings can go forward.

There is one administrative district judge for each of Idaho's seven judicial districts.

Administrative judges already had the ability to order local actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The emergency order also limits the number of challenges lawyers get to dismiss potential jurors. A rule suspending the ability to disqualify a judge without cause, as well as a rule that no one except a testifying witness may be asked to remove a mask against his or her wishes, remain in effect.

To read the full order, click here. 

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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