Going to court in the time of COVID // Best Picture

Black and white photo of Lisa Jørgensen wearing a mask and standing in front of Old City Hall
One lawyer’s account of entering Old City Hall during the pandemic

By Conan Tobias

On Tuesday December 1st, 2020

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The Old City Hall courthouse was once a bustling hotbed of human activity. Today, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend our world, the building is nearly empty, abandoned by the people who used to pack into the hallways. An eerie silence accentuates the ghost-town atmosphere.

Lisa Jørgensen, a partner at Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe Barristers whose practice focuses on criminal and regulatory defence work, has observed this uncanny scene. In July, a few days after real-world courthouses started to reopen, she arrived at Old City Hall to conduct a pre-trial motion. Once inside, she followed arrows on the floor as she moved through the vacant space. The courtroom itself was decked out in plexiglass that surrounded the bench, the witness box and the counsel seating area. The whole time, she wore a mask, which she couldn’t take off without permission from the judge.

The experience was surreal. “You’re entering a place you’d been told for months was not safe enough to enter,” recalls Jørgensen. “You’re engaging in what feels like a normal activity. But there’s nothing normal about it.”

Black and white photo of Lisa Jørgensen wearing a mask and standing in front of Old City Hall


This is a story from our Winter 2020 Issue.


Photography by Mark Sommerfeld