Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Court Closed for Three Days
Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile annnounced late yesterday in an email to bench officers:
Hello, everyone. First and foremost, I want to thank you all for your understanding, patience and commitment to service and for all you have done since this COVID-19 virus presented in the United States generally, and in Los Angeles County specifically.
By the end of today, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye should authorize me to take emergency measures to protect the public, court users, our staff, and ourselves. Pursuant in part to that authority, I am hereby announcing a court closure, of each and every courthouse in our County, effective tomorrow, March 17, 2020. These courthouse closures will be for three (3) days, from March 17-19, 2020. Pursuant to the Emergency Powers from the Chief, the three (3) days of closure shall constitute court holidays for purposes of calculating statutory time. Once again, our courthouses will be closed to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, March 17-19, 2020, and will reopen on Friday, March 20, 2020.
I wish to thank you for your excellent calendar management over the last week or so, and especially today. Generally, cases should be continued for 30 days or longer, whenever possible. Optimally, I ask that you continue matters beyond 60 days to minimize case congestion on your calendars. Going forward, for cases that must be set on a shorter schedule, please follow the direction provided by the Supervising Judge of your discipline. Your District Supervising Judges will continue to serve as your primary point of contact during this time, which is expected to last at least 30 days.
As a reminder, the Governor has asked that persons 65 and over and persons pregnant or experiencing underlying health conditions remain in self-isolation. We ask that you consider heeding the Governor’s recommendation, especially if you are over 65. We want to err on the side of caution. Everyone else is expected to return to work on Friday, March 20, 2020, unless notified otherwise.
By Friday, March 20, 2020, we will provide further direction concerning the potential of further court closures, scaling down of our trial court operations and other measures we will take pursuant to the emergency authority the Chief will provide me.
Thank you for your continued support and commitment to our mission of ensuring access to justice, even in these uncertain times. Take very good care everyone and stay safe.
Brazile on Saturday sent an advisory to all bench officers. It appears below in major part.
Hello everyone, there have been many swift COVID-related developments over the past few days with declarations of emergency being declared by the Governor, City of Los Angeles Mayor, and just this past Friday President Donald Trump declared a national emergency for the COVID-19 virus. With the help of the COVID-19 Working Group and most importantly all of you, we are implementing and announcing a series of social distancing measures to protect jurors, judicial officers, employees, attorneys and the public that will be effective Monday, March 16, 2020.
Now that COVID-19 is spreading in our communities, Los Angeles County and state public health officials are recommending the important strategy of social distancing to stop or slow the spread of the virus. It requires the creation of about six (6) feet of physical space between individuals. They emphasize the need to minimize the number of gatherings as much as possible to achieve space between individuals when events or activities cannot be modified, postponed, or canceled. Additionally, there is the immediate need to create space between individuals who come together on a one-time or rare basis and who have very different travel patterns such as those coming from multiple countries, states or counties.
Therefore, effective Monday, March 16, 2020, the following measures will be implemented:
• No new jurors will be summoned for any civil or criminal jury trials for the next 30 days;
• The trial judge for any jury trial in session may exercise his or her discretion to either continue the trial or declare a mistrial;
• The trial judge for any non-jury trial in session may exercise his or her discretion to either continue the trial or declare a mistrial;
• Self-help centers will be closed with the exception of assistance with restraining order preparation;
• Judges should consider ways to achieve social distancing in their courtrooms by offering telephonic appearances and other strategies to reduce courtroom traffic; and
• If you do not presently offer telephonic appearances but would like to offer that option, please send an email to your Supervising Judge. This process will take a few days to implement.
[Executive Officer] Sherri [Carter] and the Human Resources on Friday announced policies to provide high-risk individuals with chronic medical conditions and employees impacted by school, child care, or elder care closures options to telework, perform shift work or use leave. We will be very liberal with supporting our employees so please be flexible and patient with your court employees who elect to take advantage of these options.
As part of my efforts to keep you informed, please note the following:
• The home page of our website (www.lacourt.org) has been updated with a new COVID-19 news center at the top of the page;
• We will continue to communicate our proactive efforts on our Twitter page;
• Public health officials continue to emphasize the importance of staying home when you are sick and frequent, proper hand-washing;
• In exchange for hand sanitizer dispensers that are no longer available, we have arranged to buy 60,000, 8-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer, which will be provided by the end of the month to high-traffic areas, such as courtrooms, clerk’s areas, jury assembly rooms, self-help clinics and administrative offices; and
• Additional signage, which is attached to this memo, will be posted on courthouse entry points and on courtroom doors advising the public about restrictions on entering our courthouses or courtrooms.
I understand these are stressful, difficult days for all of us—both at home and at work. Eric and I are doing all we can as quickly as we can to assure we provide you with the most up-to-date information and related policy changes. Together, we are prioritizing public health and safety while balancing the need to assure due process rights and deliver essential services to our communities—especially for the most vulnerable people who need us.
Superior Courts, Statewide
California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye yesterday sent the advisory appearing below to the state’s superior court presiding judges:
California’s judicial branch is facing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 virus. I recognize that this situation may require the temporary adjustment or suspension of court operations and procedures. As you know, Government Code section 68115 allows the presiding judge of a superior court affected by an emergency to request, and me to authorize, that certain dates or a range of days be declared court holidays, that the time frames for specific procedures be extended, or both. I stand prepared to prioritize all such requests that may be submitted in the days ahead.
I provide the following guidance to facilitate the submission, review, and approval of these requests. Given the declarations of a State of Emergency by President Trump and Governor Newsom, and prevailing conditions and circumstances common to the superior courts of the state, I anticipate that requests for orders under section 68115 that invoke the pandemic situation, and explain that the protection of public health and safety in connection with this situation has resulted or is expected to result in significant interference with superior court services and proceedings, will on that basis state sufficient grounds for, at a minimum, the relief listed below. With requests for a section 68115 order that would affect a criminal defendant’s or a similarly situated juvenile’s rights to a prompt arraignment and speedy adjudication, such as a request to extend the time period for an arraignment under Penal Code section 825 from 48 hours to three or more days, the request should include facts that specifically show the need for the additional time that is requested, and that the delays sought are the least necessary under the circumstances in light of the alternatives before the court, including alternatives reached upon consultation with other local justice partners.
The requests presumptively subject to approval upon the representations described above are:
• A declaration that for a period of up to 10 court days from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, an emergency condition substantially interfered with the public’s ability to file papers in a court facility or court facilities, and that such days are deemed holidays for the purpose of computing time for filing papers with the court under Sections 12 and 12a of the Code of Civil Procedure, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(4);
• A declaration that for a period of up to 10 court days from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, an emergency condition prevented the court from conducting proceedings governed by Welfare and Institutions Code section 334, and that such days are deemed holidays for the purpose of computing time under this statute, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(5);
• An extension, of up to 30 days from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, of the time periods provided in Sections 583.310 and 583.320 of the Code of Civil Procedure to bring an action to trial, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(6);
• An extension, for up 30 days, of the duration of any restraining order that would otherwise expire within 14 days of the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(7);
• An extension, for a period of one month from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, of the time period provided in section 859b of the Penal Code for the holding of a preliminary examination from 10 court days to not more than 15 court days, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(9); and
• An extension, for a period of one month from the date of the order granting relief under section 68115, of the time period provided in section 334 of the Welfare and Institutions Code within which a hearing on a juvenile dependency petition must be held by not more than 7 days, pursuant to Government Code section 68115, subdivision (a)(12).
Any request for the declaration of court holidays or extensions beyond or in addition to those described above also will be reviewed expeditiously to determine whether it states adequate grounds for the relief sought.
In closing, I want to reiterate my gratitude to you all, who stand in the front lines in this situation, as in so many others.
California Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of California yesterday issued the following order amending oral argument procedure “in light of the current public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect the health and safety of the public”:
In-person oral argument is suspended. Counsel will appear remotely via video, telephone conference, or other electronic means.
All oral argument sessions will be held in the court’s San Francisco courtroom.
While oral argument sessions will continue to be open to the public, seating will be strictly limited to keep appropriate distancing.
Oral argument sessions will continue to be livestreamed for the public.
These adjustments will remain in place until it is determined prudent to resume normal procedures.
Copyright 2020, Metropolitan News Company