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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Washington Supreme Court mandates COVID-19 vaccines for workers, encourages lower courts to do same

Aug. 18, 2021 Updated Wed., Aug. 18, 2021 at 10:12 p.m.

The Temple of Justice, on the Washington Capitol Campus, is the home of the state Supreme Court.  (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
The Temple of Justice, on the Washington Capitol Campus, is the home of the state Supreme Court. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

Employees of the Washington Supreme Court - the state’s highest court - must receive vaccination against COVID-19 by Nov. 1, according to an order entered Wednesday.

Those seeking continued employment at the courts or the state’s Law Library will need to get their shots in order to keep their jobs. The requirement includes exemptions for religious or disability-related reasons.

The order, signed by Chief Justice Steven C. Gonzalez, also includes a recommendation that other entities in the state’s judicial branch, including the Washington State Bar Association, the Office of Public Defense and appellate and trial courts adopt similar vaccination requirements.

Such orders would need to come from the presiding judge in each jurisdiction. Spokane County Superior Court Presiding Judge Harold Clarke has not issued such an order, said Ashley Callan, superior court administrator for the county, but she noted the order was just handed down by the state court Wednesday.

The Washington Bar Association said it, too, was reviewing the court’s order. “We are aware of the order, and we are discussing the details of what a vaccine mandate would look like for the bar association,” said Jennifer Olegario, a spokeswoman for the association.

The U.S. Justice Department in July issued a ruling that federal law does not prohibit private and public entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccination as condition of employment, even though the vaccines available have only received emergency use authorization .

In its order requiring vaccination, the Supreme Court noted the recent increase in cases caused by the delta variant of the coronavirus and that its employees “need to be prepared to come to their worksite at any time necessary to meet the operational needs of the courts.” The requirement does not extend to visitors or patrons.

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