LOS ANGELES – Seeking to further limit the number of people in Los Angeles County courthouses during a surge in coronavirus cases, the presiding judge Wednesday ordered emergency continuances for criminal trials and juvenile dependency cases.
“Today’s order will provide some much-needed flexibility to judicial officers to continue last-day matters, which will help to reduce the number of attorneys, jurors, witnesses and others in Los Angeles County courthouses,” Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile said in a statement accompanying his order.
“Public health and safety are the court’s paramount concerns during the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles County and statewide,” he wrote. “The court is taking decisive actions this week to limit the number of persons in courthouses while seeking to balance its obligations to render justice with its duty to protect all who visit and work in its courthouses.”
Under the order and until further notice:
— the time for a preliminary hearing following arraignment may be extended from 10 court days to no more than 30 court days;
— the time within which a criminal trial must be held may also be extended by up to 30 days in cases in which the deadline would otherwise fall between Dec. 2 and Dec. 31;
— minors taken into custody pending dependency proceedings can be held up to seven days in cases when the deadline for release would otherwise fall on or between Dec. 7 to Dec. 31; and
— the deadline for a detention hearing may also be extended to a full seven days for cases when the 48-hour statutory deadline would otherwise expire from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31.
The court has already taken steps to enforce social distancing, barring attorneys, litigants, witnesses and other authorized individuals from gathering with anyone outside their household in courthouse hallways or other public areas of the court unless they are masked and standing six feet apart.
Masks are required to be worn by everyone inside the courthouses unless they can certify a medical exemption and deputies inside the courthouse have been instructed to enforce all orders.
Advance appointments are required at this time for in-person service at the Clerk’s Office and self-help centers inside the courthouses.
Brazile noted that all 600 county courtrooms have been equipped with remote courtroom appearance technology, but did not comment on why preliminary and detention hearing dates could not be accommodated virtually.