L.A. County Tightens Policy on Face Masks in Courthouses

Judge holding gavel in courtroom

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Face masks with valves were banned in all Los Angeles County courthouses under an order issued today by the system's presiding judge.

The order issued by Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile also requires face masks to be worn under face shields except as required by a physician.

“We all have gotten used to evolving science and public health guidance during the pandemic,'' Brazile said in a statement issued by the court.

“The court is aligning its mandatory face mask requirements in all Los Angeles County courthouses with Los Angeles County and California Department of Public Health guidances, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19.''

The order requires anyone entering a courthouse or courtroom to wear a face mask over their nose and mouth at all times within public areas of the courthouse or courtroom, with non-exempt individuals who refuse to wear a mask to be denied entry, according to the court.

Mandatory use of a face mask and maintaining at least six feet of distance from anyone outside a person's household are among the components of the court's Here For You|Safe For You plan intended to provide a safe courthouse environment while offering alternatives to in-person court appearances during the coronavirus pandemic.

People with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that precludes them from wearing a face mask are exempt from the order, but they must take whatever protective measures their condition permits, such as wearing a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge as long as their medical condition allows it, according to the court.

Those with disabilities can seek an exemption from the order through a courthouse liaison. A list of liaisons is available at www.lacourt.org/ada/adahome.aspx.

Court hearings involving those exempted from wearing a face mask may be scheduled when fewer people are in court, officials said.

Brazile had ordered the courts to substantially scale back operations in mid-March to comply with state and county public health directives intended to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Brazile said last week the court would give priority to criminal trials that had been postponed under an emergency order, noting then that there were about 7,000 criminal cases that must be tried to satisfy the defendants' rights to a speedy trial.

“Preserving that right while protecting the well-being of all participants in a trail during a pandemic involving a highly contagious respiratory virus is an unprecedented challenge for trial courts,'' Brazile said then.

Photo: Getty Images

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