April 9, 2020

2nd Judicial District Courthouse shut down after employee tested positive for COVID-19

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Andy Lyman

Second Judicial District Court in Albuquerque

A New Mexico state district court shut down Thursday afternoon for at least several days because a court employee tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to a press release from the 2nd Judicial District Court, which serves the Bernalillo County area, the court building will be deep cleaned before being reopened to the public. 

The employee in question had not been in the court building since March 2, but started showing symptoms of COVID-19 a few days later, according to the press release. Any hearings scheduled for Thursday or Friday will be vacated and postponed until Monday.

Second Judicial District Chief Judge Stan Whitaker said the closure was out of caution for other employees.

“We have no reason at this time to believe any other court employees have contracted the virus,” Whitaker said in a statement. “However, we believe the prudent thing to do is close the courthouse for a thorough cleaning before reopening it for our employees and the public.”

Since the first reports of positive cases of COVID-19 in the state earlier this month, prosecutors and defense attorneys have been calling for concise policies to limit the number of people in court buildings. 

Last month, the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender closed its Santa Fe office after a staff attorney tested positive for COVID-19. Chief Public Defender Bennet Baur said the decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court to hold all court proceedings by video or phone probably helped. 

“The efforts that have been made over the past two weeks will help a lot in both the tracing aspect and just it limits the number of people who might have been exposed,” Baur said. District Attorney Raul Torrez, who represents the district, also called for stricter policies for social distancing last month. He previously told NM Political Report that he was concerned that he would have to shut down his office completely if even one person on his staff tested positive for COVID-19.