LOS ANGELES – The presiding judge-elect for the Los Angeles County Superior Court said this week he is committed to restoring access to justice safety and more widely during his upcoming two-year term.
“The court is focused on a safe expansion of access to justice after a six-month hiatus of criminal and civil trials and non-essential matters,” Presiding Judge-Elect Eric C. Taylor said in a statement released Monday afternoon. “Restoring access to justice is complicated by the pandemic-related state budget crisis.”
Taylor, who was elected to his new post unanimously earlier this month, said he will work for a fair allocation of state funding to support essential court functions.
Taylor has served as the assistant presiding judge since Jan. 1, 2019, and his new role will begin Jan. 1. He praised his soon-to-be predecessor’s approach to handling the crisis affecting 38 courthouses countywide.
“I want to thank my friend and colleague, Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile, for his extraordinary leadership as we faced the swift, devastating impacts of COVID-19 that erupted in March 2020 in Los Angeles County,” Taylor said. “It has been an honor to assist Presiding Judge Brazile as he tirelessly and courageously made decisions to lead our court safely through this truly unprecedented crisis. Every decision he made was prioritized around protecting the public health and safety of all who use and work in our courts.”
Court hearings and other services began to be phased back in during late June, with social distancing protocols, enhanced sanitization of high- touch areas in courthouses, and a requirement that everyone wear masks. New technology has been rolled out to allow for remote appearances in nearly 600 courtrooms, according to Taylor.
“I intend to build on our restoration of services with strategies designed to withstand further waves of COVID-19 as we enter into the pandemic’s second year,” hesaid.
Significant backlogs in cases, particularly jury trials, will need to be addressed.
The state has cut nearly $168 million in state trial court funding for the current fiscal year, leaving the Los Angeles Superior Court will a $60 million deficit. The court has cut costs and exhausted all available reserves to close that gap, according to the presiding judge-elect.
“We will do everything we can to restore our budget so as not to further impair court operations at a time when people need justice the most,” he said. “We are acutely aware of the pain so many are enduring during this pandemic. A healthy society and economy depend on a healthy court system.”
The judge said he grew up in the Crenshaw District in a small apartment headed by a single parent with limited resources.
“I remember well the stresses on our family, and especially on my mother. I know that but for the courts, the most vulnerable among us would have no forum in which to pursue legal protections, equal rights and simply a place to be heard.”
As part of his job, Taylor also mentors at-risk youth and developed a program with the Los Angeles Unified School District and nonprofit Good City Mentors to connect students with bench officers.
“Involving the community as partners in our legal system, especially young people, is a wonderful way to build trust and to positively influence future social justice,” Taylor said.