A coalition of renters, public interest attorneys, tenants rights groups and community-based organizations Friday denounced Los Angeles County Superior Court officials’ decision to continue holding trials given the potential health risks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The coalition held a news conference outside the downtown County Courthouse, offering statements from low-income tenants who allege they are being forced into court amid unsafe conditions.
The groups are demanding that Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile take immediate steps to ensure every courthouse “does its part to flatten the curve and protect public health.”
A court representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Last week, a West Covina Superior Court judge refused both a deputy district attorney’s and a defendant’s request for a postponement because a witness was 87 years old, instead ordering the witness to appear, the coalition alleges.
Earlier this week at the Metro Courthouse, defendants were required to cluster around pop-up tables to confirm their authorization to enter, often for hours at a time, according to the coalition.
The group also contends that court officials have failed to offer routine contract tracing or inform the public of COVID risks at courthouses and maintain they operate outside of the jurisdiction of any public health agency.
Groups represented at the news conference included the Eviction Defense Network, Los Angeles Center for Community Law and Action, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and LA Voice.
ACCE member Aida Rivera, a renter facing eviction, said she is in a “vulnerable demographic” for the coronavirus and also works in a nursing home.
“Judge Kevin C. Brazile has not made the decision to stop these cases from being heard to avoid putting people at risk,” she said. “On Wednesday, I came to court for my eviction case and felt unsafe, but knew I had to be there. Despite having a scheduled hearing, I waited for hours in unsafe conditions, and worst of all, my landlord’s attorney did not even show up. I risked my health for nothing.”