North Carolina Judge Jails Prospective Juror for Not Wearing Mask in a Mask-Optional Courthouse

CDC website

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”

  1. In the summer of 1974 I got a speeding ticket while driving through a rural section of Tennessee. The police officer took me to a small court house where the judge took one look at me standing there in a nice polo shirt and bermuda shorts. He ordered me out of the court room and not to return until I had on long pants. I found a pair of work pants at a store next door and purchased them for $5.00. When I returned to the courthouse (looking rather weird) I was accepted by the judge, who as he said he “threw the book at me” by fining me $25. I paid in cash and he let me go.

  2. Is this another example of a Judge who thinks he is above the law ? There have been too many Judges who make their own laws and no one dares questions them. Even in the article nothing is said about the judge.

  3. Judge Gilchrist has done more damage to the Judicial System than he realizes. It is hard enough to get people to be prospective jurors for a criminal case as it is, now it will be much harder. This abuse of Judicial power that was imposed on a Military Veteran simply for not obeying this Judge’s arbitrary order for wearing a useless mask is only going to make getting people to sit on a jury even less appealing than it already is for prospective jurors.

    1. Now, they never reopened that worthless pit
      They just placed a marble stand in front of it
      These few words are written on that stand
      At the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man

      Big John

      – Jimmy Dean

  4. He probably got the idea from the Federal government. Masks are still required at many, if not all, Federal facilities. I had an appointment at my local VA clinic this past week and there’s a big sign at the entrance advising that masks are required.

    This guy is a Navy veteran but claims he was on some kind of presidential honor guard at Arlington National Cemetery? I’d take that with a grain of salt. Unless something has changed, Arlington falls under the Army and all guards are soldiers, not sailors.

  5. Hello everyone,

    I’ve been busy working in a secret basement laboratory not to different from where Joe Biden ran his presidential campaign.

    After experimenting with strict intrinsic and extrinsic parameters, a new type of face mask has been discovered that can produce 100% efficacy.

    It’s the jock strap.

    I’ve been in contact with Dr. Anthony Fauci, State Department Antony Blinken, and China president She, to arrange in perpetuity, a final test at China’s Wuhan bio weapons research lab.

    For all you baseball fans, I’ve also been in contact Homerun hitter Aaron Judge’s PR manager to get a used autographed jock strap.

    It is imperative that all the bases are covered.

  6. Titles such as ‘your magesty’ and ‘your highness’ were banned in this country of freedom and equality centuries ago. It’s time that the title of ‘your honor’ also be banned as clearly unjust and anachronistic.

  7. Titles such as ‘your magesty’ and ‘your highness’ were banned in this country of freedom and equality centuries ago. It’s time that the of ‘your honor’ also be banned as clearly unjust and anachronistic.

    1. The Bible in the book of Job chapter 32 verses 21 and 22 speaks against giving flattering titles unto man. I think “your honour” qualifies as a flattering title.

  8. It would have made more sense to just dismiss Hahn from the jury pool.

    THUG Judge!

    Fair? The only ones enforcing masks are the National Socialist Democrat WOKE Party. NAZIS.

  9. ACTIVIST DEMOCRAT SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR misusing his Authority as a Dictator. There needs to be a cleansing of the entire system if the Republicans regain control, which will bring an end of the Great Reset and Begin the cleaning of Gov’t and laws..

    1. One of the problems here is that the Judge can not be sued – he has both absolute and qualified immunity.
      Qualified immunity MUST go. If you violate the rights of another under color of authority there MUST be consequences.

  10. Just to quote Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park). “Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should”.
    The Judge was a jerk. Reminds me of a Judge who presided over the very large Jury Pool Room in the Municipal Court in Houston in the 1970’s. While approx 100 + jurors sat quietly waiting to be called for various jury panels this judge harangued all of the jurors with a constant stream of invective and recriminations about all that was wrong in the U.S. at the time. Not a good idea in front of so many jurors and likely prejudiced many who were to be called. I sat next to an attorney who had been called for jury duty and I could see his face just turn redder and redder as his anger grew at this judge’s actions. We talked until we were all released whereupon he was off to make an official misconduct charge against the judge to the bar association, which I agreed was warranted. Even judges can go to far.

    1. In his correctly pointing out that paper surgical masks have no efficacy, Professor Turley incorrectly implies that N95 masks do. The evidence from several studies is clear that as used in practice, N95 masks prevent neither the acquisition nor the transmission of respiratory virus. The CDC understood this until the spring of 2020 at which time the agency was under pressure to produce policies that created the impression of competent governance. Mask mandates were simply an intuitive yet counterproductive means to signal action while providing individuals with a sense of control. It soon morphed into an external tip as to whether a person is a collectivist or rogue.

      1. There is not a single public policy response to Covid that proved effective.

        Why in god’s name would anyone give more control of their lives to people like those who told us how to survive covid – at great advantage to the personal power and no benefit to the rest of us.

        We wasted 3 years being told that anyone who deviated on iota from CDC guidelines was a moron and science denier.
        Yet by May 2020 we knew that covid could be near perfectly predicted by demographics and geography – that there was no data showing any public policies or combination had worked. Before that a fundimental understanding of epidemiology 101 and a bit of math would have told us all the same.

        I was told in early 2020 that an N95 mask was 77% effective against Covid in a laboratory test. Assume that is true, and calculate for a virus with a base transmission rate of 2.5-3.8 and math will tell you that with universal masking you will slow the virus down but you will not stop it, you will not even come close.

        Early on with hospital personnel on Covid wards using the best PPE there is – purportedly 99% effective, almost all tested positive for Covid after 2 weeks on the ward.

        It is unbelievably hard to stop a respiratory virus – we have never stopped the flu with half the base transmission rate.

        Initially I had hoped the vaccine would work, but with 97% effectiveness and a half life of about 8 months. I knew immediately that was wishful thinking. If you could vaccinate the entire world in one week MAYBE the vaccine would work.

  11. Professor… use lots of words to say what can be said in a few……..must be the Lawyer in you I suppose.

    The Judge was wrong….did not have the authority to do as he did in violation of posted State Court Policy to which he himself must comply.

    The Policy clearly stated it was the Citizen that was to make the decision to wear or not wear the mask.

    Until that clearly stated policy….set forth by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the Senior Superior Court Judge for that District….is modified by another written policy then the Judge must comply with that policy.

    Simple….Hahn should sue the Judge personally, file an Ethics Complaint, and hit every TV show and Radio Show he can telling of his illegal arrest.

    I would also suggest the Judge face criminal charges for False Imprisonment under the State Kidnapping Law..

    Had I been a Bailiff in his Court (a Deputy Sheriff from the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office) I would have refused the Judge’s Order and referred the matter to the Sheriff.

    Had I been the Sheriff….I would have refused the Judge’s Order and told the Judge to just send Mr. Hahn home and excuse him from Jury Duty.

    In Police language as compared to Lawyer talk….we would have simply said “This is wrong!” (or more succinct words for it) and worked to minimize the harm to Mr. Hahn.

    Why do you not take on Mr. Hahn’s Case and do it Pro Bono? Gerry Spence took on Randy Weaver’s Case because it was the right thing to do.

  12. If you are just waking up to it, THIS is exactly what Progressives have been doing for the last 10 years. It won’t get better until we vote wiser.

  13. This judge is covidian loonatic who deserves no benefit of the doubt. This prospective juror deserves a hero statue in the town square.

  14. Democrats in any position of power are now feeling emboldened to become tyrants over anyone they take a dislike to. Knowing
    the media will white wash what they do, the past two years have shown us a very broken judicial system.

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