Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Closures Come on Heels of Court Announcing Plans for Reopening Courtrooms That Have Been Dark;
580 Courtrooms to Be Equipped With Technology for Remote Appearances by End of August
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile yesterday afternoon ordered the civil and criminal courthouses in the downtown Civic Center closed due to protests, just as plans are being solidified for the reopening of courtrooms that have been dark in light of the coronavirus epidemic.
There was no word as of presstime yesterday as to whether those courthouses will reopen today.
The day started out on a positive note, with court Executive Officer Sherri Carter announcing plans to beef up use of technology to enable “vitual” appearances, with the capacity to accommodate such remote appearances expected to exist by the end of August in 580 courtrooms. Later, however, as tensions mounted downtown, judges and staff members at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse were sent home, on Brazile’s orders.
The presiding judge declared:
“In the interest of the safety of the public, judicial officers, employees and others, I have ordered these courthouses closed for the remainder of the day. The decision to close a courthouse is never made lightly, but public safety imperatives are my chief priority.”
Brazile announced Sunday that all Los Angeles Superior Court courtrooms would be closed on Monday. There was no word until about 4:45 p.m. on Monday as to whether courtrooms would be open on Tuesday; Brazile said they would be.
With throngs of protesters in the Civil Center yesterday—and protests having turned into riots in recent days in reaction to the police killing of African American George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minnesota—Brazile issued his order, which also includes the Hollywood Courthouse.
The Spring Street Courthouse—which previously housed the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California—was not affected; it was closed earlier, along with the courthouses in Beverly Hills, Bellflower, Catalina, East Los Angeles, and Santa Clarita, and Central Civil West, as the result of service reductions occasioned by the epidemic.
The statement issued by Carter said that audio or audio/video appearances will be possible using the court’s “new LACourtConnect technology that will provide a secure, safe and convenient way to attend hearings remotely,” with each audio appearance costing $15 and each audio/video appearance being priced at $23.
Carter’s statement advised:
“A key element of the Court’s new Here For You/Safe For You restoration of services and access to justice, LACourtConnect will contribute to social distancing requirements and dramatically change the traditional in-person courtroom appearance model.”
Presiding Judge Comments
“LACourtConnect will provide a safe and convenient alternative to coming through the courthouse doors to appear for your hearing. As we restore court operations on June 15 and gradually resume hearings beginning June 22, we want to assure litigants and attorneys the Court will open its doors with infection control measures, social distancing and face covering requirements.”
Carter’s statement said LACourtConnect will be as of June 22 in civil settlements and probate matters, and its use will be gradually expanded.
Starting Sunday, the statement noted, a “Court ID” can be set up by lawyers through the “Attorney Portal” and as of June 15, it will be possible to schedule hearings through that portal for probate hearings and mandatory settlement conferences.
CourtCall’s existing services will remain available to attorneys at the $94 rate, set by the California Rules of Court, where LACourtConnect has not yet been set up, the statement indicated.
Brazile released on March 17 issued a general order, pursuant to emergency powers, drastically curtailing court operations in light of the epidemic, resulting in 473 of the Court’s 600 courtrooms going dark.
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company