Los Angeles County’s presiding judge has asked the county’s public health director for help in speeding up COVID-19 vaccinations for 5,000 court employees and judicial officers, along with 2,500 other “justice partner” employees who work daily in the court system, the court announced Tuesday.

Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor made the request to Dr. Barbara Ferrer asking for assistance to re-prioritize vaccinations after the state and county announced last week that vaccinations for court employees would be delayed due to a change in the vaccination prioritization list, placing persons 65 years and older above the Phase 1C members, which includes those who work in government operations.

“The court has worked tirelessly to keep the doors of justice open in furtherance of our commitment and duty to uphold constitutional, statutory, and legislative mandates as the third branch of government in our democracy,” Taylor said in a statement issued by the court. “We have been fortunate to work with you and our county’s Department of Public Health to ensure that we conduct court proceedings and business safely.”

Taylor noted that the court system had “drastically reduced” foot traffic in its courthouses, moved court operations and proceedings to remote formats where lawful and permissible, issued emergency orders to delay many proceedings and jury trials, implemented social distancing measures, mandatory use of face masks and other safety protocols, retrofitted its facilities with plexiglass and hand sanitizer stations and enhanced the facilities’ sanitization services.

But he noted that “the hard-working essential workers of our court must continue to carry out many of their duties in person.”

Earlier this month, the court announced that a Superior Court traffic clerk and court interpreter had died in January from COVID-19. Taylor noted then 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.”

In a tweet late Monday, Los Angeles County Public Defender Ricardo Garcia also called for public defenders to be moved up on the priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations.

“Public defenders are in courts across California, every day, at great risk to themselves and their families protecting your constitutional rights and defending the presumption of innocence. Protect and defend their health and safety. Move public defenders to 1B vaccination priority,” he wrote.

COVID-19 vaccinations are currently not available to anyone in Phase 1B except for those who are 65 and older.

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