North Carolina Judge Charles Gilchrist is under fire this week for sending prospective juror Gregory Hahn into custody for contempt after he refused to wear a mask. There is no mask mandate at the courthouse and the state mandate was lifted months ago. The controversy highlights a conflict between a health policy set for the court system as a whole and the individual authority of judges over their courtrooms.
Visitors are told that wearing masks at the courthouse is optional in North Carolina and Hahn declined to do so. Hahn is a Navy Veteran who reportedly served as a member of the President’s Honor Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. However, clerks told his jury pool that Judge Gilchrist personally required masks in his courtroom.
Judge Gilchrist informed Hahn that the penalty for contempt could be a $500 fine and 30 days in prison. When Hahn still refused to put on a mask, he was sent to jail for 24 hours at the Harnett County jail.
The order applying to the entire court system stated categorically that this decision will be left to employees and visitors rather than individual judges.
Judges generally have authority for most conditions in their courtrooms and the refusal to comply with a valid order can be grounds for contempt. However, there is no reference to that discretion in the court-wide order making masks optional.
The question is the health basis for the order. Hahn could comply with the order by simply wearing a paper surgical mask rather than a N95 mask despite the fact that such masks are viewed as largely ineffective. The CDC no longer advocates mandatory mask wearing even on mass transportation.
In fairness to Judge Gilchrist, there are still schools and cities that have continued mask mandates, including allowing the use of surgical masks to satisfy such mandates.
Yet, the change in the mask policies in North Carolina has left it up to individual citizens to decide if they want to wear masks for their own protection. Courts must decide if judges should be able to depart from those guidelines in the imposition of a mask mandate on a courtroom by courtroom basis — or whether the court as a whole should decide such public health guidelines.
Judge Gilchrist sits on Judicial District 11A of the North Carolina 3rd Superior Court Division. He was first selected in 2012 and his current term ends on December 31, 2028. (The North Carolina Superior Courts are split into five divisions and 48 districts and judges rotate among the districts in their given division every six months).
58 thoughts on “North Carolina Judge Jails Prospective Juror for Not Wearing Mask in a Mask-Optional Courthouse”
This appears to be abuse of judicial power, and totally without scientific merit.
Cloth face masks have been found to be nothing more than facial adornments that collect bacteria and viruses. There is no scientific reason whatsoever to mandate the wearing of cloth masks.
I have asthma. While I wore masks during the height of the pandemic, it was difficult to breathe for anything longer or more rigorous than a grocery shopping trip. I almost passed out once while loading 50 lb sacks of horse feed into my truck. I had to wear the mask to pick up the feed, and then didn’t bother to try to pull it down while lifting the bags into the truck bed. I almost passed out before I realized I just needed to take the mask off.
When the pandemic first hit, I didn’t understand why so many people objected to masks, beyond the principle of the mandate itself. It wasn’t until I learned more about how hard it is to breathe in a mask, how children were fainting, and some died, while doing sports in masks, how some find them claustrophobic, and how they exacerbate acne in teenagers. Then there are the speech delays and social isolation of children who have spent years surrounded by masked adults and peers. There is also the inevitable vomiting and runny noses when children wear masks all day at school, or dropping masks on the bathroom floor and then putting them back on. Cloth masks get contaminated quickly. There are many reasons why someone would object to wearing a mask. It was also found that even the best masks do little to prevent transmission. You would need a PAPR respirator and full body PPE, as in the treatment of Ebola patients, and then you’d need to not breathe contaminated air when changing, and not contaminate your clothing, to prevent all transmission of viruses. Somehow, I don’t think the judge would be able to require this in the courtroom.
Does Gregory Hahn have any legal recourse to address his mistreatment? He was put into jail with criminals for correctly noting masks are optional in court. What is there to be done regarding rogue judges?
the fact that all in the court building acknowledge he does what he wants in his courtroom….this is the problem; everyone lets him get away with it!
Why not put the judge in jail for 48 hours!!!
Wow, and a “man” too.
Of the judge was not wearing a mask, he cannot hold this man in contempt. Forcing folks to wear a face covering after they are proven to be of no use is quite incredulous…but to enforce ruling on someone serving, by a judge who also not abiding by the “mask restriction” imposed by such judge … unenforcable. This juror just got some retirement money… lol. Like a like a traffic cop citing a person for parking in a no parking zone but he is parked in that same zone.
Maybe I’m wrong but this seems like a lawsuit to me.
It is clear that, in challenging the judge’s order, the defendant opted to slide down a stair rail which ended in a razor. From his interview he admitted, after the fact, that he had engaged his mouth before his brain, and expressed total incredulity at being jailed for contempt. I applaud his courage. This will hopefully now become case law in that jurisdiction, reign in the authority of the bench, set example for the nation. In all things, someone eventually answers the call, either by intention or chance, and stands in front of the totalitarian states’ tanks. The judge has now made of himself excrement. So let it be written, so let it be done.
… rein in ..,
Someone always decides to sit in the front of the bus.
Im surprised Professor Turley did not investigate further. The Judge presides in Harnett not Guildford County
See the following from WRAL in Raleigh:
“You can go in any district courtroom without a mask, you can come into superior clerk court without a mask and the [district attorney’s] office without a mask, but with Judge Gilchrist he has a mandate that you must wear a mask,” said Clerk of Superior Court Renee Whittenton.
Whittenton said Gilchrist is the only superior court judge in the county with a mask mandate.
WRAL News has reached out to Gilchrist with a request for comment, but have not heard back.
“The irony of all this is the judge was talking to me without a mask,” Hahn said. “If safety was such a concern, I go to jail no mask requirements with inmates.”
However, Whittenton provided a written statement saying each juror was advised of Gilchrist’s requirement to wear a mask at check in. Each juror was provided a mask to wear too, Whittenton wrote.
A joint order dated March 10, 2022, issued by Harnett and Lee counties states:
Masks are optional in the hallways, foyers, restrooms, meeting rooms and similar areas
The presiding judge in each courtroom may decide, in their discretion, whether masks are required in the courtroom
The ranking official in each courthouse agency (for example the Clerk of the Court, District Attorney, etc.) shall determine in their discretion, whether masks are required in their respective offices
Any person who chooses can wear a mask
The order is subject to revision based on public health conditions and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
No potential juror was made aware of Gilchrist’s mandate before Monday’s orientation, Hahn said. It wasn’t listed on the summons Hahn received. The courthouse also does not have signs requiring masks.
When a cop pulls you over, you say, “Yes, Sir” and do whatever he tells you to do.
Ditto for a Judge. His court. His rules. This isn’t that difficult
If Gilchrist is going to impose requirements on Jurors beyond the norm – then jurors who do not accept those requirements should be returned for another judge that does.
Given that 14 different RCT’s have found that MASKS DONT WORK.
This is all virtue signalling theater.
I say this Judge while “his ” individual rules pertain to his courtroom only,,,, I call this grandstanding because the judge could have just simply told this juror he was no longer needed in jury
It appears this Judge is an Operative of The Democrat Communist Criminal Terrorist Organization.
“[D]o whatever he tells you to do. [. . .]This isn’t that difficult”
Unless you have self-esteem.
Your reply reminds of the joke about two Jews about to be shot by the Nazis. When offered a mask to cover his eyes, one Jew refused. The other leaned over and whispered, “don’t make trouble”. Which one are you?
I don’t think your joke is relevant or funny. Nothing about the Nazis and their actions against humanity is funny.
Roberto Benigni thinks you are wrong
I think the scariest person in the world is the person with no sense of humor.
Michael J. Fox
Who cares if you think it is funny? No one.
You’re a good little sheep. I bet you took the poison shot and took a knee for the BLM marxists too. Pathetic.
Hahn has claimed that judge Giilchrist was not wearing a mask at any time while Hahn was in the courtroom. If true, that should be enough to vacate Hahn’s sentence. It’s not likely that the NC Supreme Court, which is the only authority short of impeachment by the legislature, to punish GIlchrist will do much besides “Naughty, naughty judge” But clearing Hahn would be worth while by itself.
In my opinion, there has to be some penalty for that judge!
I’d like to see that guy sue the judge for intentional infliction of emotional distress, based on the judge’s refusal to allow him to contact his minor son and make arrangements for his care for the 24-hour period (single parent household).
You can’t – judges like police have qualified immunity.
The judge should have just sent the prospective juror back to the jury pool, thus satifying both of them.
That would have been the intelligent thing to do. However, intelligence is a commodity that is in extremely short supply this day in age, even amongst the educated.
A CHAIN-LINK FENCE
The discussion of masks is ridiculous. Disease affects people differently and does not affect all members of the GENERAL populace the same way. Congress cannot tax for disease as “…general Welfare…” because all people are not affected the same way or to the same degree. The only power government has, related to “shut downs,” is the suspension of habeas corpus during invasion or rebellion. Period. Government has no, zero, constitutional authority to impose quarantines, shut downs or mask wearing. Government has no authority to provide or otherwise control and/or restrict healthcare. People are free to obtain medical care. People are free to stay home. People are free to travel. The Constitution makes no guarantees about personal outcomes. Congress cannot detain sick people without probable cause indicating a crime against another person.
Freedom and Self-Reliance is the American thesis.
Charity is noble and private.
“…a chain-link fence to stop mosquitos…”
“The virus that causes COVID-19 is about 0.1 micrometer in diameter. (A micrometer (µm) is one one-thousandth of a millimeter.) The holes in woven cloth are visible to the naked eye and may be five to 200 micrometers in diameter. It is counter-intuitive that cloth can be useful in this setting — it’s been compared to putting up a chain-link fence to stop mosquitoes. However, that analogy is wrong in many ways.”
If people are bored with the legal stuff this guy below is different & Salty.
I’ve worn N95 masks in Construction work many times and I can tell you even worn properly that it can’t even stop all the dust from say drywall sanding, way larger particles than said virus. Masks were tested several years ago against the influenza, aka flu, virus and was proven then to be ineffective. They knew from the beginning masks were BS!
I have to be honest. I’ll sit in the hoosegow for 24 hours and pay a $500.00 fine if it means I will never be called for jury duty again.
Easy solution. Jail the judge