All individuals attending a court proceeding at the Williamson County Justice Center are requested to wear masks. Judges, at their discretion, may require masks to be worn in their courtroom according to revisions to the COVID Operating Plan for the Williamson County Justice Center.
Individuals coming to the Justice Center for other business, such as visiting the County Clerk’s or District Clerk’s office, will not be required to wear masks. This clarification of yesterday’s revision to the plan was necessary given the unique circumstance that the Williamson County Justice Center is a facility shared by multiple elected officials.
The ability to require masks within courtrooms is allowed under Governor Greg Abbott’s order. The Courts are unique in that the judicial system is a separate branch of government. The Supreme Court of Texas has the authority to make rules of administration applicable to the courts.
The Office of Court Administration has specifically determined that previously issued executive orders do not alter the Supreme Court’s emergency order which gives a judge the ability to control his or her courtroom or impose requirements for those entering a court building who will be attending a court proceeding. However, given that the Williamson County Justice Center has individuals enter who are not attending a court proceeding, a clarification was needed. Other elected officials, such as county attorneys, district attorneys, county clerks and district clerks cannot require masks in their respective offices.
“The Williamson County Judiciary is focused on ensuring the Courts are safely able to provide uninterrupted access to justice for everyone in our county,” said Judge Betsy Lambeth, the Local Administrative District Judge for Williamson County. “These measures will allow us to do that and give court participants confidence in their health and safety as they have their day in court.”
“I am so proud of our court system and the more than 14,792 cases they have resolved since the pandemic began. Judges have the discretion to use the tools necessary to protect themselves, their staff and those who come into their courtroom in order to keep the justice system working. We trust our judges to make the best decisions in their courtrooms,” said County Judge Bill Gravell. “And to be clear, all other Williamson County offices are open, and masks are not required.”
Judges have the discretion to remove the mask requirement for participants in their individual courtroom. On July 19, 2021, the Williamson County and Cities Health District increased the COVID risk level to “Red”, which reflects uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 in Williamson County.