Los Angeles County’s court system — which substantially scaled back the number of cases being heard as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — will gradually begin expanding operations when more courtrooms reopen June 22, the presiding judge announced Friday.
“As we go deeper into the phased recovery allowed by state and county public health officials, the court has a gradual approach to assure safe access to justice in the nation’s largest trial court,” Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile said in a statement released by the court.
“We are going to take this COVID-19 recovery slowly and carefully with the help of remote courtroom technology, mandatory use of masks/facial coverings, social distancing protocols and barriers, enhanced cleaning, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, and signs to direct visitors where to stand. We are doing all we can to re-open our doors safely to restore access to justice in Los Angeles County.”
The court is set to resume full operations June 22 in its Mental Health, Juvenile Dependency, Juvenile Delinquency, Writs and Receivers and Complex Civil and Personal Injury courtrooms and settlement courts, with remote appearances being done via WebEx or CourtCall, which allow attorneys to appear through audio or video sessions.
Probate courtrooms, civil courtrooms and family law courtrooms are also set to resume expanded operations the same day.
The court’s appellate division will resume full operations and hear oral arguments starting June 25, with unlawful detainer courtrooms set to resume law and motion and ex-parte applications June 29.
The criminal division will begin a “phased expansion of operations” on July 6 and increase the use of remote proceedings via Webex, according to the judge’s order.
Judicial officers have the discretion to require the use of remote appearances while the order is in effect, and parties and their attorneys are being strongly urged to make use of technology for remote appearances.
Earlier this month, officials said technology was being expanded to allow attorneys and self-represented litigants to appear remotely through audio or video appearances in certain cases starting later this month, officials announced Friday.
The program, called LACourtConnect, will be available first to cases involving civil settlements and probate matters on calendar starting the week of June 22.
Throughout the rest of the summer, the program will launch in phases for all limited civil, unlimited civil and complex, family law and traffic courtrooms, according to the court.
The court’s other remote courtroom appearance technology — court-hosted video Webex — will be expanded to new litigation areas and added to more criminal courtrooms, with remote appearance technology expected in 580 courtrooms by the end of August, according to the court.
The presiding judge ordered the courts to substantially scale back operations in mid-March to comply with state and county public health directives to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.