Under guidelines drawn up in December, it was clear that some more exposed groups in the Italian labor market, including teachers and health workers, would be vaccinated first along with society’s oldest and most fragile members.
But those guidelines were unclear about whether lawyers and judges were essential workers who should have priority access to vaccines. Those professions are now accused of pressuring regional authorities, who run Italy’s health care system, for permission to jump the queue — which is allowed in some cases.
Now the government has published new binding rules which clarify that lawyers and judges have to wait in line for vaccines, while criticizing the regions for allowing the queue jumping.
In parliament last week, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the regions were “neglecting their elderly in favor of groups that push for priority thanks to their bargaining power.”
The national body that represents judges and prosecutors, the National Association of Magistrates, released a statement on Sunday inviting court officials to slow court activities and suspend nonurgent hearings, in a move that threatens to rob Italy’s already slow-moving justice system of much-needed momentum.
The decision was forced by “the predictable and high number of infections and victims among justice operators, and inexplicably lacking regulatory interventions in a period when infections are growing,” the association said. The new guidelines “completely undervalue the essential and urgent work of justice workers.”
Following the statement the judges’ body came in for a hail of criticism.
Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing League, said judges need to “get in line like everyone else. If there are older judges or those with pre-existing conditions, they should have the same rights as others, otherwise to me they are the same as shop assistants or other workers “
Enrico Rossi, Democratic Party leader in the region of Umbria, criticized a “selfishness … that goes against the constitutional principles of equality and solidarity … The only scientific criteria that matters is to vaccinate the elderly and the vulnerable first, so as to save lives.”
The president of the judges’ association, Giuseppe Santalucia, on Monday claimed what had been demanded was not vaccination, rather a “a risk assessment to see whether crowded trial hearings could be a problem.”
Justice Undersecretary Francesco Paolo Sisto said that the worries were legitimate and it was reasonable “to request an in-depth risk analysis … for magistrates, lawyers, registry staff as well as citizens who use the justice service.”