Wednesday, August 12, 2020
By a METNEWS Staff Writer
Predictions by some judges that civil jury trials would not be resumed this calendar year in light of the pandemic have proved accurate, with Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile ordering postponement of such proceedings until 2021, with the exception of cases involving evictions.
In a general order released late Monday, Brazile declared:
“All unlimited and limited Civil jury trials, including Unlawful Detainer trials, scheduled from August 10, 2020 to September 8,2020, inclusive, are continued until further notice. The parties shall be notified of the continued trial date by the court. All pre-trial dates for trials that are continued pursuant to this paragraph are also continued consistent with the new trial date.”
The order adds that “the Court will not set any Civil jury trials to commence before January 2021,” with the exception of “[c]ertain Unlawful Detainer jury trials” which “will be set to commence on or after October 5, 2020.”
The presiding judge said in a statement:
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has expressed concerns to the Court about commencing jury trials and bringing jurors into County courthouses given the current COVID-19 numbers and trends.”
Also slated to be heard on or after Oct. 5 will be “non-jury trials in preference cases that can be tried in compliance with social distancing protocols,” under the order.
Some Proceedings Resumed
Small claims and traffic trials resumed on Monday. Conducting family law proceedings is presently authorized if they are not expected to consume more than two days; otherwise, under the order, they “shall not commence before November 16, 2020, except as authorized by the Supervising Judge of Family Law.”
All other non-jury trials “unless statutorily required otherwise” are continued, under the order, with a notation that they won’t be set before Nov. 16.
The dependency courts reopened June 22, with most of the proceedings conducted with remote technology.
The order recites:
“A combination of judicial emergency orders issued pursuant to Government Code section 68115, emergency rules issued by the Judicial Council and Statewide Orders issued by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye…have extended the time period provided by Penal Code section 1382 for the holding of a criminal trial in Los Angeles County from March 17, 2020 until October 13, 2020.”
It was announced that some criminal trials might start in September.
The order notes:
“[T]he Court cannot mandate remote appearances in criminal jury trials because California Rules of Court…emergency rules 3 and 5 authorize remote proceedings only with the consent of the defendant. The Court cannot mandate remote appearances in civil jury trials due to logistical and social distancing concerns that would arise with respect to jury selection and jury deliberations. There are also evidentiary issues that prevent the Court from imposing mandatory remote civil jury trials.”
A footnote points to the difficulty the court has in balancing the need for access to the courthouse with public safety, saying:
“A typical criminal jury trial with one witness testifying involves a minimum of 22 people. Judge, judicial assistant, court reporter, bailiff, 12 jurors and 2 alternates, prosecutor, defense counsel, witness, and defendant.”
On Aug. 6, Brazile announced the availability of technology in 250 criminal courtrooms enabling remote appearances, video arraignments and preliminary hearings in 32 courtrooms.
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company