The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has suspended jury trials for at least three weeks due to a surge of COVID-19 cases within the region’s federal courthouses, according to a court memo obtained Tuesday.
The suspension of civil and criminal jury trials will remain in effect through at least Jan. 24, and other significant hearings are expected to take place via video conferencing. A motion hearing scheduled Friday in the public corruption case of ex-Los Angeles city councilman Jose Huizar, for example, has been moved to Zoom.
Central District courthouses are located in Los Angeles, Riverside, Pasadena and Santa Ana.
According to the memo from Clerk of Court Kiry K. Gray, the surge in cases of Omicron, the new virus variant that causes COVID-19, has been felt within the region’s federal courts.
“Given the increased rate of transmission of COVID-19 in the Central District of California due to the Omicron variant, conducting jury trials would place court personnel, attorneys, parties, and prospective jurors at undue risk,” Gray wrote. “Accordingly, a temporary suspension of jury trials is necessary to protect public health and safety, as well as ensure the continuous performance of essential functions and operations of the Court.”
Gray wrote that the temporary suspension of jury trials may be extended as necessary.
The announcement was the first of two on Tuesday regarding court proceedings and COVID protocols. Later Tuesday, Los Angeles County’s presiding judge issued an emergency order that authorized criminal jury trials to be temporarily delayed. It applies to criminal jury trials with statutory deadlines between Wednesday and Jan. 19, and extends the time period to hold criminal trials “by not more than 30 days.”