In an effort to lower the number of people in Los Angeles County courthouses during the coronavirus pandemic, the presiding judge-elect of the court system issued an order Thursday that allows emergency continuances in criminal trials and juvenile dependency cases.

“This emergency order will allow flexibility to continue last-day matters to reduce the number of people allowed into our courthouses during the pandemic,” Presiding Judge-elect Eric C. Taylor said in a statement issued by the court.

He noted that the court system has “worked diligently to strike a balance between maintaining access to justice and safeguarding the well-being of those who work in the court or need its services.”

The order allows:

— the time within which a criminal trial must be held to be extended by not more than 30 days in cases in which the deadline would otherwise fall between Jan. 4 and Jan. 28;

— the time for a preliminary hearing to be extended from 10 court days to no more than 30 court days;

— pretrial hearings for defendants who are out of custody and charged in misdemeanor cases set between Jan. 4 and Jan. 28 to be extended by 90 calendar days;

— minors taken into custody pending dependency proceedings to be held for up to seven days in cases in which the deadline for release would otherwise fall between Jan. 4 and Jan. 28;

— the deadline for a detention hearing to be extended to seven days in cases in which the statutory deadline would otherwise expire from Jan. 4 to Jan. 28.

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 inside the courthouse have been instructed to enforce all orders, according to the court.

Advance appointments are required for in-person service at the Clerk’s Office and self-help centers inside the courthouses.

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