Please note that this page is not intended to give up-to-the-minute information on the closure of the court system, nor is it an official government notice.
For the most accurate and timely information, readers should consult the Los Angeles Superior Court's website directly at lacourt.org.
On March 16, 2020, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye granted Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile emergency powers under Government Code Section 68115.
On March 17, 2020, Presiding Judge Brazile issued an order implementing emergency measures for the Los Angeles Superior Court, which is the state's largest court system.
The most immediate and dramatic step taken by the Presiding Judge is to order the complete closure of all Los Angeles Superior Court courthouse locations. See related Los Angeles Times article - L.A. County courts to shut down for several days amid coronavirus spread.
The closure dates are between March 17, 2020 and March 19, 2020, which would otherwise have been normal court dates. On March 20, 2020, the courts will re-open, but only to hear “emergency,” matters.
Several important procedural considerations are also addressed in the Presiding Judge's order.
First, for purposes of computing time under the Penal Code, which is relevant to determining speedy trial rights, rights to a speedy preliminary hearing, rights to a speedy sentencing hearing, rights to a speedy arraignment, and other statutory rights, the dates between March 17, 2020 and March 19, 2020 are deemed holidays.
Essentially, this means that the three-day closure will not count against any other many ticking clocks which determine the timing of various procedures in California criminal cases.
From March 20, 2020 to April 16, 2020, all courtrooms will remain closed with the exception of certain functions deemed “essential.”
Family Law Matters
These include certain civil and family law proceedings such as temporary restraining order hearings, family court ex parte proceedings, contempt proceedings, international kidnapping adjudications, probate ex parte hearings, emergency probate proceedings such as petitions for temporary conservatorship or guardianship, and certain others.
Criminal Law Proceeedings
For criminal law proceedings, it appears that preliminary hearings, the issuance of search warrants, bail review hearings, certain ex parte hearings, and criminal sentencing and post-sentencing appearances will proceed.
Juvenile detention hearings, which are the juvenile court equivalent of bail review hearings in adult criminal court, will also go forward.
Critically, it appears that some jury trials will continue where no consent to continue has been provided by the defendant and “enhanced” statutory limits have been reached.
This is a major change to criminal procedure. Normally, under Penal Code Section 1382, a defendant must be brought to trial within 60 days absent a waiver of the right to speedy trial by the defendant.
Pursuant to his emergency authority, the Presiding Judge has extended this deadline by an additional 30 days due to the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).
Speedy Premliminary Hearing Matters
Several other important criminal law statutory deadlines have been extended as well. The right to a speedy preliminary hearing, usually a 10-day time limit, has been extended to 15 days.
The right to be brought before a magistrate for arraignment within 48 hours of arrest has been extended to a right to be arraigned within 7 days of arrest.
Juvenile court criminal deadlines have similarly been extended. Detention hearings and hearings following taking a minor into custody pending wardship proceedings have been given extended deadlines of 7 days.
Decreasing Number of Inmates in Custody
There is also information being circulated that the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department intends to decrease the number of inmates in county custody.
This is likely through a combination of releasing non-violent offenders on low bail amounts and choosing to similarly release new arrestees on their own recognizance if they do not pose a threat to the community.
It is unclear at this point how many inmates will be affected and exactly which categories of arrestees will be subject to this new policy.
The situation continues to change day by day in the court system as it does around the country as the coronavirus crisis plays out.
Visit Court Website for More Information
As stated above, the best source for up to date information is the court's website, where numerous public announcements regarding the Superior Court's evolving response to the crisis have been posted in the last few days.
As of this writing, the courts remained closed and court staff and attorneys are working together to reschedule non-emergency matters for at least 30 days, or longer where possible, to allow the system time to recover.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We also have an office nest to the Van Nuys Courthouse located at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Our contact number is (310) 328-3776.