A senior lawyer says he'd like to see high-level justice officials take the place of court security staff as fears of a coronavirus outbreak grow.
He also raised concerns about a jury trial scheduled to begin next week, with 355 potential jurors called in for selection.
Defence lawyer Mike Antunovic said in the Wellington District Court today he couldn't believe the Ministry of Justice was still requiring staff such as the court security guards to be exposed to every person who enters the courthouse.
"I'd like to see some of those officials get down there and do that," he said.
The Ministry of Justice has said it's business as usual for court operations, but that the matter is being regularly assessed as coronavirus continues to spread around the world.
But Antunovic has slammed the approach, also raising questions over whether jury trials should still go ahead as New Zealand works to halt community infection of the disease.
He said there was a trial scheduled to begin in the High Court at Wellington on Monday with 355 potential jurors expected to show up.
"It just seems to me to be absurd that they would be expected to all assemble in the one area. It's quite unbelievable really," he said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced guidelines saying gatherings of more than 500 people should be avoided, but added further guidance around public gatherings would be provided later in the week.
The case Antunovic was in court for today is scheduled to go to trial in court in April, but he was unsure if trials would still be happening in a month.
Judge Peter Hobbs said he was just a "foot soldier" and the advice from higher up the chain was to "continue as normal".
"I can't personally help the security officers but what I can tell you is that obviously the matters that you raised are in daily review," he said.
Judge Hobbs said Antunovic was not the first person to raise concerns about the situation, but that it had been made "very clear" to him he could not simply "close the courts" without direction from officials.
"We should get some of them down here, sir," Antunovic said.
He told the Herald it was "extraordinary" that security staff were still expected to not only be exposed to everyone entering the building, but also that they had to handle everyone's personal belongings as they put them through the X-ray machine.
Ministry of Justice chief operating officer Carl Crafar said in an earlier statement they were working closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, judiciary and court users.
"We are meeting regularly with the judiciary. We will consult and inform all stakeholders to help us plan for how essential court business and justice services might best continue in the event of local or widespread outbreaks of Covid-19.
"We will advise of any impacts or changes to court operations as the situation develops and changes."
In a letter to members of the legal profession on Friday, Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann said options were being discussed for how to mitigate risk, including remote hearings, relaxed or modified deadlines for filing paperwork, and arrangements for keeping court participants safe during appearances.