Authorities fear the medical system could be overwhelmed and are desperate to lower the rate of Coronavirus infection
In an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19 in courthouses, the Los Angeles County Superior Court announced Wednesday that it would extend the time for criminal trials, under emergency powers granted by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye under Government Code 68115.
Los Angeles County, which has escaped the kind of coronavirus statistics seen in greater New York, has recently seen diagnosed cases skyrocket to around 5000 per day. The County has closed restaurants, which had only allowed outdoor dining, in an attempt to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
Covid has a death rate of around 2.1% of diagnosed cases worldwide. About 8% of all diagnosed cases are accompanied with serious enough symptoms to require hospitalization. LA County has only around 11,000 ICU beds for 10,000,000 people. Authorities fear the medical system could be overwhelmed and are desperate to lower the rate of infection.
Litigants are urged to socially distance in courthouses, and wash their hands frequently. The Superior Court's press release follows.
PRESIDING JUDGE KEVIN C. BRAZILE ISSUES ORDER AUTHORIZING JUDICIAL EMERGENCY CONTINUANCES FOR CRIMINAL TRIALS, JUVENILE DEPENDENCY MATTERS TO FURTHER LIMIT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ALLOWED IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY COURTHOUSES
Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile issued a General Order today extending last-day deadlines for Criminal trials as well as Juvenile Dependency cases pursuant to the emergency powers granted to him by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye under Government Code 68115.
"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 Brazile said. "Public health and safety are the Court's paramount concerns during the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles County and statewide. 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."
The Order, which is attached, provides emergency relief as follows: Criminal:
• Pursuant to the authority granted by the March 30, 2020, Statewide Emergency Order issued by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, which the Court implemented in its General Order No. 2020-GEN-07-00 issued on April 2, 2020, and until further notice, the Court extends the time provided by section 859b of the Penal Code for the holding of a preliminary examination and the defendant's right to release from 10 court days to not more than 30 court days.
• The Court extends the time period provided in section 1382 of the Penal Code for the holding of a Criminal trial by not more than 30days, applicable onlyto cases in which the original or previously extended statutory deadline otherwise would expire from December 2, 2020 to December 31, 2020, inclusive.
• TheCourtextendsthetimeperiodsprovidedinsection313oftheWelfareandInstitutions Code within which a minor taken into custody pending dependency proceedings must be released from custody to not more than seven (7) days, applicable only to minors for whom the statutory deadline would otherwise expire from December 7, 2020 to December 31, 2021, inclusive.
• The Court extends the time periods provided in section 315 of the Welfare and Institutions Code within which a minor taken into custody pending dependency proceedings must be given a detention hearing to not more than seven (7) days, applicable only to minors for whom the statutory deadline would otherwise expire from December 7, 2020 to December 31, 2021, inclusive.
Today'sOrder–whichcontains additional provisions–follows Presiding Judge Brazile's General Order 2020-GEN-025-00, issued on November 23, 2020, which requires strict access limits to Los Angeles County courthouses.
Toaddressconcernsaboutlack of social distancing in some courthouse hallways andpublic areas, all attorneys, litigants, witnesses, and authorized persons are prohibited from gathering with or speaking to anyone outside their household in courthouse hallways or public areas of the Court unless they can do so at least six feet apart from each other and while wearing masks over their nose and mouth.
To enforce social distancing ,each court department shall schedule only the number of matters during each session as it can accommodate consistent with social distancing requirements in courtrooms and outside hallways of the courthouse.
Sheriff's Department personnel are directed to enforce the mandatory face mask requirement and social distancing protocols in courthouses (2020-GEN-016).
Since the resumption of court services on June 15 and phased resumption of hearings began on June 22 in all 38 courthouses, the Court:
• Equipped all 600 courtrooms across the county with remote courtroom appearance technology;
• Required masks (without valves) be worn over the nose and mouth inside courthouses, unless
medically certified as an exception;
• Posted social distancing signs to limit the number of people allowed in hallways, courtrooms and elevators;
• Provided hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in key traffic areas, and increased cleaning of restrooms and high-touch surfaces;
• Installed over 5,600 plexiglass barriers at security screening stations, public counters and courtrooms;
• Provided drop boxes outside each courthouse; and
• Required advance appointments for in-person service at the Clerk's Office and Self-Help Centers. Call centers at each courthouse are available to reserve appointments for in-person service and get answers to questions.
The Court's Here For You | Safe For You initiative provides numerous protective measures to operate courthouses safely, including offering services that allow court business to be conducted remotely. Whether appearing by phone, from home, the office or coming to the courthouse, the Court provides safe, efficientoptionstoaccessjustice.TheCourt'sremotecourtroomappearancetechnologyoptionspromote social distancing by reducing the number of people appearing in person.
Information on Here For You | Safe For You can be found here and on the Court's Twitter page (@LASuperiorCourt ).