Citing the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s court system has announced emergency continuances for criminal trials and juvenile dependency matters.
“While the number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County has decreased and the number of persons being vaccinated against the coronavirus is increasing, the court’s priority remains safe access to justice,” Presiding Justice Eric C. Taylor said in a statement.
“The court will continue to limit the number of persons in its courthouses and require compliance with mandatory mask and social distancing protocols.”
The order allows for:
— the time within which a criminal trial must be held to be extended by up to 30 days in cases in which the statutory deadline would otherwise fall between Feb. 27 and March 26;
— the time for a preliminary hearing following arraignment to be extended from 10 court days to no more than 30 court days;
— pretrial hearings in misdemeanor cases set between Feb. 27 and March 26 for out-of-custody defendants to be extended by 90 calendar days unless statutorily required to be held sooner and the defendant does not consent to a continuance;
— minors taken into custody pending dependency proceedings to be held up to seven days in cases when the deadline for release would otherwise fall on or between Feb. 27 and March 26.
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 have been instructed to enforce all orders.
In a Jan. 15 announcement announcing the COVID-19 deaths of a Superior Court traffic clerk and a court interpreter, Taylor noted that the court was continuing to “implement extensive safety measures in all of our 38 courthouses” but that “none of us is immune to this plague on our nation.”