LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL COURT CORONAVIRUS GUIDELINES
March 22, 2020
Los Angeles Courts’ Coronavirus Directives
The past few weeks have resulted in unprecedented challenges across California and the rest of the nation as we deal with the spread of Coronavirus/Covid-19. In the criminal defense attorney community, changes have been taking place on an almost daily basis. This post will attempt to summarize the directives issued as of March 22, 2020 in Los Angeles area criminal courts. Please consult http://www.lacourt.org/ for the latest public announcements.
On March 13, the Presiding Judge of Los Angeles County announced that any criminal jury trials where statutory time had been previously waived should be continued at least 30 days and that jury panel requests should be limited for at least 30 days due to Coronavirus concerns.
This order was strengthened on March 15 when it was announced that no new jurors would be summoned for any trial for the ensuing 30 days. Additionally, trial judges were given discretion to either continue any existing trial beyond that date or to declare a mistrial.
The Los Angeles courts also issued guidelines on March 15 instructing the following to not enter any courthouse in Los Angeles County
Persons with apparent symptoms of Coronavirus/COVID-19, such as fever, severe cough, or shortness of breath;
Persons who have been diagnosed with Coronavirus/COVID-19, or persons who have had contact with persons diagnosed with Coronavirus/COVID-19;
Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, or health agency;
Persons who have traveled to any countries within the last fourteen days for which the CDC has issued Level Two or Level Three travel health notices (*see list of countries below); and
Persons who reside or have had close contact with someone who has traveled to any of those countries within the last fourteen days.
Individuals with a scheduled matter in court who fell under the above guidelines were instructed to follow the following procedure:
If you are here to seek a restraining order, please call (213) 830-0845;
If you are represented by an attorney, contact your attorney;
If you are not represented by an attorney, contact the courtroom in which you are scheduled to appear;
If you are an attorney and you are scheduled to appear in court, please contact the courtroom;
If you are a juror, please contact Jury Services at (213) 972-0970 or the courtroom to which you have been assigned;
On March 16, the Presiding Judge for Los Angeles County announced that courts would be closed for all purposes from March 17-March 19. Courts reopened on March 20 but with the guidance that the courts would reopen for the “limited purpose of hearing or handling essential or emergency matters.” The notice from the courts explained that an emergency order had been issued that day from the Chief Justice of California which allowed courts to extend time limits for arraignments, preliminary hearings, and trials.
On March 17, Los Angeles County announced that all trials would be suspended for a minimum of 30 days.
On March 18, the Presiding Judge announced that all infraction matters (traffic and non-traffic) would be continued for at least 30 days. Individuals with scheduled cases within that timeframe will receive letters with updated notices in the mail.
On March 19, the County announced that trial court operations would be streamlined and downsized significantly until at least April 16, 2020. The order stated that 36 of 38 courthouses would reopen on March 20 but that almost 400 courtrooms would be closed within those courthouses. The Beverly Hills and Catalina courthouses will be completely closed while signage in the other courthouses will indicate open courtrooms where cases will be heard. The announcement also reiterated the following:
All Civil and Criminal jury and non-jury trials are suspended;
Jury service is suspended temporarily;
No pre-trial conferences will be held; and
Next week, more courtrooms and/or departments will be closed to reflect the Court’s reorganized functions and further downsizing.
On March 20, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County announced that the clerk’s office in all courthouses would be closed from March 23, 2020 until further notice. http://www.lacourt.org/newsmedia/uploads/142020320152620PN_PRClerksOffices_03_20_20.pdf
CONTACT AN ATTORNEY FOR SPECIFIC ADVICE
This situation remains fluid so please continue to check http://www.lacourt.org/ for the latest information. If you currently have a criminal defense attorney, I highly recommend you reach out to the attorney for specific advice to your situation. If you do not have a Los Angeles criminal attorney or if you want a second opinion, please reach out to me for advice specific to your situation.