NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Twenty-four hours after News4 Investigates captured video of overcrowding both inside and outside of the AA Birch Building in downtown Nashville, a judge calls what we exposed a total disregard for social distancing.
News4 Investigates showed how crowds were gathered just inches apart, both outside the building, waiting to go through security and as people waited to get onto elevators.
Video captured by News4 Investigates crowds of people, standing inches apart and often clustered close together, inside the Justice A.A. Birch building in downtown Nashville.
People who work inside the building contacted News4 Investigates to report that they felt unsafe during a pandemic with such crowds.
After our investigation aired Thursday, by Friday morning, markers were put out to make sure people social distanced as they waited to enter the court.
A meeting between judges is being arranged for early next week to address what we uncovered.
In a letter from Judge Mark Fishburn to his fellow trial court judges and Sheriff, he expressed his frustration at the overcrowding.
Fishburn wrote that his trial court administrator, Tim Townsend, and Hall are “being inundated by news media calls regarding the total disregard for social distancing protocols in Birch and what measures are going to be taken to address the situation.”
Fishburn wrote that his concern wasn’t just for the lobby, but especially the 6th floor.
“Tim (Townsend) was surprised – and not pleasantly so – to find the 6th floor having the worst problem of all six floors with absolutely no consideration of social distancing,” Fishburn wrote.
After cutting back dockets during the beginning of the pandemic, the courts reopened in June with supposed plans to limit the number of people inside.
“But the question remains: why is it that we are having this sudden increase of people in the building… Have any of us quit using zoom and similar remote capabilities to reduce the number of witnesses appearing in court?” Fishburn wrote.
Fishburn also referenced what we captured on Thursday: Townsend counting to ensure the elevators weren’t full after we reported on complaints that the elevators were packed.
“This will definitely result in people being late to court, but Tim has no choice pending some specific directives from the courts,” Fishburn wrote.
Towsend told News4 Investigates that the judges are currently deciding when they can meet, either Monday or Tuesday of next week, to discuss solutions to the problems.