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Texas Federal Jurors Ordered Not to Wear Masks

As we’ve noted previously, Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has been one of the judges most intent in carrying on. Judge Gilstrap’s current procedure requires jurors and attorneys at counsel table to wear only face shields, not masks. In contrast, in the Western District of Texas, Judge Alan Albright in Waco permits jurors to wear masks. So far, there have not been reports of litigants or jurors using these procedures to make mischief, but the opportunity seems to be there.

Different Approaches in Texas

The Supreme Court of Texas extended its ban on in-person jury trials until December 1, San Antonio’s Spectrum News reports: “Since jury trials have slowed significantly since March, it’s been nearly impossible for attorneys to do their job to the best of their abilities.”

However, lawyers are doing their jobs in at least some federal courts. Yesterday Judge Rodney Gilstrap completed a six-day patent infringement trial in federal court in Marshall, Texas, with a $5 million verdict for the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s attorney said the court’s safety precautions made for a “very comfortable experience.” Law360 reports that lawyers and witnesses did not wear masks, but there was a plexiglass shield in front of the witness stand to protect court staff. This is at least the third pandemic jury trial Judge Gilstrap has conducted, with one, in August, resulting in a $506 million verdict.

Few Masks at EDTex Jury Trial

Today a mostly maskless trial concluded in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas before Judge Rodney Gilstrap with an $8.5 million plaintiff’s verdict. This was Judge Rodney Gilstrap’s second pandemic trial. Attendees in the gallery were “asked to wear masks,” according to Law360. Jurors wore face shields but not masked. Also unmasked: Judge Gilstrap, his staff and the lawyers.

McDermott’s litigation team monitors US courts as they reopen amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.