The presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s court system has issued an order authorizing a new set of emergency continuances for criminal trials and juvenile dependency matters as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even as COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations continue to fall in Los Angeles County, the need to maintain social distancing in courthouses remains paramount to ensure the safety of the public, jurors, judicial officers, court staff and our justice partners,” Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor said in a written statement.

He said the court is safely and deliberately expanding civil and criminal jury trials.

Face coverings are required to be worn by everyone inside the courthouses unless they can certify a medical exemption, and social distancing and all existing COVID-19 safety protocols will remain in effect until further notice, according to the court.

The order allows for:

— the time within which a criminal trial must be held to be extended by up to 30 days in cases in which the statutory deadline would otherwise fall between May 22 and June 18;

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

— pretrial hearings in misdemeanor cases set between May 22 and June 18 for out-of-custody defendants to be extended by 90 calendar days unless statutorily required to be held sooner and the defendant does not consent to a continuance; and

— minors taken into custody pending dependency proceedings to be held up to seven days in cases when the deadline for release would otherwise fall on or between May 22 and June 18.

In a Jan. 15 statement announcing the COVID-19 deaths of a Superior Court traffic clerk and a court interpreter, Taylor noted 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.”

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