LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Public access to Los Angeles County courthouses will be restricted to authorized persons and social distancing strictly enforced in response to the surge in coronavirus cases, according to a new order.
Access will be limited to judicial officers, attorneys, litigants, witnesses, court employees, vendors, jurors, mediators and other authorized persons, including the media, under the order issued by Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile on Monday. Individuals with confirmed appointments will also be allowed entry.
“My top priority is to assure that we take whatever steps necessary to protect the safety and well-being of our justice partners, court users, staff, judicial officers and others who must work in courthouses,'' Brazile wrote.
“Despite a General Order requiring the use of face masks and social distancing mandates, attorneys, litigants and others routinely remove their masks and fail to observe social distancing while in our courthouses,'' he added.
Anyone else wanting to attend a court proceeding may request permission in advance online, and it will be up to the relevant judge's discretion to grant or deny access.
“The court finds that these new controls are necessary to maintain access to justice safely while balancing the right of public access to proceedings, freedom of the press and public health considerations during a pandemic,'' Brazile wrote.
To address concerns about the lack of social distancing in hallways and public areas, everyone will be prohibited from gathering or speaking to anyone outside their household in those areas unless they are wearing masks and standing at least six feet apart.
Court departments may schedule fewer hearings to ensure there are not too many people waiting in hallways or courtrooms.
Members of the public will be prohibited from eating in courthouse hallways and courtrooms at all times.
Brazile directed sheriff's deputies to enforce the mask and social distancing requirements, something they have been reluctant to do outside the courthouse.
All 600 courtrooms have been equipped with technology to allow for remote appearances, although media and members of the public do not have access to those remote systems.
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