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September 1st, 2020
COVID-19 Surge Postpones or Delays Los Angeles Civil Jury Trials
Here’s an update on how the pandemic is affecting jury trials in Los Angeles federal and state courts.
Los Angeles federal court. Due to the recent surge in the Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has closed its doors to the public and delayed all civil and criminal jury trials until further notice. All appearances in civil cases will be by telephone or video conference. However, individual judges, at their discretion, may offer bench trials by video conference in lieu of postponement.
The Court has adopted “gating” criteria to determine when to resume jury trials. The “gating” criteria will help the Court determine local COVID-19 exposure risks based on 14-day trends of facility exposure, community spread, and community restrictions.
Los Angeles state court. Los Angeles Superior Court has postponed civil jury trials until at least January of 2021, pointing out that Los Angeles County courthouses are not designed to facilitate social distancing given their fixed configuration. Los Angeles State Courts have been rolling out new technology to allow judges to hold remote hearings via video conferences. However, as Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile noted, “The court cannot mandate remote appearances in civil trials due to logistical and evidentiary issues.” In-person civil bench trials are scheduled to resume on November 16, 2020.
Lessons from criminal jury trials. In-person criminal jury trials currently set to resume in Los Angeles Superior Court in September may provide insight about the logistics of future civil jury trials. For example, Los Angeles Superior Court will be implementing remote completion of juror questionnaires and staggering juror reporting times; providing screening, facemasks, hand sanitizer, and extra cleaning; employing social distancing in courtrooms, jury assembly areas, elevators, and restrooms; and, shortening the time for verbal voir dire or questioning of jurors.
In addition, access to proceedings will be limited to the judicial officer presiding, court personnel, parties, counsel, witnesses and those members of the public, including media representatives, who can be accommodated in the courtroom while enforcing mandatory social distancing of at least six feet. Judges will determine when a courtroom is at capacity. All persons will be required to wear face masks while in a courthouse, unless disabilities preclude them from doing so.
The Frankfurt Kurnit Litigation Group represents clients in litigations, arbitrations and mediations -- in both in-person and remote forums. If you have a dispute, or have questions about how new courtroom procedures are affecting a current matter, please contact Tiffany Caterina at (310)-579-9620 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Litigation Group.