LOS ANGELES – Public access to courthouses will be restricted to authorized persons only and social distancing will be strictly enforced, effective immediately, the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court announced late Monday.
Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile said access would be limited to judicial officers, attorneys, litigants, witnesses, court employees, vendors, jurors, mediators and other authorized persons, including the news media. Individuals with confirmed appointments will also be allowed entry.
Brazile cited the surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in issuing his order.
“My top priority is to assure that we take whatever steps necessary to protect the safety and well-being of our justice partners, court users, staff, judicial officers and others who must work in courthouses,” Brazile said. “Despite a General Order requiring the use of face masks and social distancing mandates, attorneys, litigants and others routinely remove their masks and fail to observe social distancing while in our courthouses.”
Anyone else who wants to attend a court proceeding may request permission in advance online, and it will be up to the relevant judge’s discretion to grant or deny access.
“The court finds that these new controls are necessary to maintain access to justice safely while balancing the right of public access to proceedings, freedom of the press and public health considerations during a pandemic,” the judge said.
To address concerns about the lack of social distancing in hallways and public areas, everyone will be prohibited from gathering or speaking with anyone outside their household in those areas unless they are wearing masks and standing at least six feet apart. Court departments may schedule fewer hearings to ensure that there are not too many people waiting in hallways or courtrooms.
Members of the public will be prohibited from eating in courthouse hallways and courtrooms at all times. Brazile directed sheriff’s deputies to enforce the mask and social distancing requirements, something they have been reluctant to do outside the courthouse. All 600 courtrooms have been equipped with technology to allow for remote appearances, although media and members of the public do not have access to those remote systems.