While Governor Newsome and other officials are pleading for residents to be extra careful when leaving their homes because of Coronavirus, L.A. courts are doing almost the opposite.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court system (the nation’s largest) is still holding in-person hearings, despite three recent court employee deaths from COVID-19. Traffic courts are still busy, criminal courts are filled with defendants with dropping face masks, and one judge allowed a witness to testify without a mask.
Since the start of the pandemic, the courts have attempted to cut down the amount of people present- and officials estimate 65% fewer foot traffic is circulating the courthouses than before the pandemic. Still, many in-person hearings are continuing- especially in criminal courts. Some litigants do not obtain access to internet or phone systems, or even know the remote option is available. If they do have access to the internet, their remote appearance comes at a cost ($15 for audio and $23 for video).
The main problem with the courts is the eviction cases. Unfortunately, eviction or traffic courtrooms are filled with lower-income residents who have to appear in-person to advocate for themselves. Without the proper procedures and precautions, this could quickly continue to be a public health disaster.
In December, a coronavirus outbreak occurred in a courthouse after a reporter tested positive. One of the interpreters who was present in the courthouse asked for time so self-isolate but was denied her request. She ended up testing positive after continuing working, and spread the virus to even more interpreters, who all had to isolate at home, and affected many operations in the courthouse.
At the end of the day, it seems like there is no reasonable explanation for the traffic courts to be filled with people arguing citations – except for the courts to college fines and fees.
“Workers in L.A.’s Courts Are Dying of COVID-19 as in-Person Hearings, Trials Continue.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 5 Feb. 2021, www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-05/covid-complicates-in-person-trials-la-courthouses.