Unvaccinated lawyer required to wear mask during trial
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — An attorney who declined to be vaccinated for COVID-19 had to wear a mask during a trial this week after losing an appeal to the state supreme court.
Darrick X. Banda, who likened the mask to “a dunce cap,” said the timing of new court rules this month didn’t give him time to be vaccinated, even if he’d wanted to do so. His co-counsel, who’s vaccinated, didn’t have to wear a mask.
Maine’s court system currently requires people who have not been vaccinated to wear masks inside all of Maine’s courthouses.
Banda produced a test showing that he was free of the coronavirus, but a judge said he didn’t have the ability to grant an exception. And the Maine Supreme Judicial Court dismissed Banda’s appeal, saying he failed to show his client’s rights would be “irreparably harmed” by proceeding with the trial, and wearing a mask.
His client was convicted Thursday of charges including sexual exploitation of a minor and unlawful sexual contact of a minor.
Banda remained frustrated after the trial ended, saying that the mask issue could cause unconscious bias among jurors. He said a negative test for COVID-19 should have been enough for him to skip the mask.
“Masks have become this inherently political issue,” the attorney said. “The battle lines are drawn based on politics.”