NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Three employees in the Juvenile Justice Center, along with an attorney who practices within the center, have all tested positive for COVID-19, prompting emergency-only dockets for the next two weeks. 

Among those testing positive: magistrate Mike O’Neil. 

The positive cases come after an attorney levied a complaint saying the center was not following its own COVID-19 guidelines. 

In an email obtained by News4 Investigates, the attorney wrote in August that it was impossible to socially-distance, citing that one floor of the lobby had 51 people, standing 1-2 feet apart, when there are only supposed to have been 24 allowed. 

Tommy Bradley, deputy court administer, said the overcrowding did occur twice because of an unexpectedly large docket.  

As a result, Bradley said they implemented a new lobby check-in process that now limits how many people can be in the building at a time. 

“If you had a case scheduled for court today but you brought three friends with you for support, we would ask those three friends to stay outside,” Bradley said. 

But four attorneys, who practice inside the center, told News4 Investigates that they continue to see mask mandates be ignored in the courts. 

“We have been contacted by several attorneys saying the mask mandate simply wasn’t being enforced as strongly as it should have been. Now you have people getting sick. Is there a correlation here?” asked News4 Investigates. 

“I do not. I think we do a fantastic job. Our staff does, our security does,” Bradley said. 

News4 Investigates obtained a photograph today of a clerk working in Magistrate O’Neil’s courtroom not wearing a mask, despite a mandate from the Tennessee Supreme Court that all employees wear masks inside a courtroom. 

To verify that the clerk did not have a doctor’s note that would have prohibited her from wearing a mask, News4 Investigates shared the photo with her supervisor, juvenile court clerk Lonnell Matthews. 

Matthews said that this was the second time he had to reprimand the clerk for not wearing her mask. 

“It’s unacceptable for any of our staff to violate the expectations that we’ve set for wearing a mask in the courtroom,” Matthews said. 


Chief Investigative Reporter

Jeremy Finley is the chief investigator for News4 Investigates. His reporting has resulted in criminal convictions, legislative hearings before the U.S. Congress, and the payout of more than a million dollars to scam victims.

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