Public to be allowed back into LA County courthouses with social distancing dropped

Los Angeles County courthouses will reopen to the general public on Monday, June 28, for the first time in more than a year as court officials loosen up COVID-19 restrictions.

Individuals will no longer be required to schedule appointments to attend hearings, obtain court documents or conduct other courthouse business, officials said. The appointment-only system had been in place since June 2020.

Social-distancing requirements inside courtrooms will be lifted, but individuals must still wear face coverings such as masks.

“This is a huge step forward in our rise from the pandemic,” Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor said.

Last week, the state lifted most of its pandemic restrictions, allowing individuals to shed their masks and businesses to return to full capacity.

However, state courts took a more cautious approach, waiting for guidance from the California Division Of Occupational Safety & Health.

Throughout the pandemic, court officials developed more online and remote access for hearings. Also, the limited court access delayed both criminal and civil cases.

Even after next week’s reopening, some of the remote hearing options will remain available to defendants as a more affordable alternative to in-person hearings, Taylor said.

Judge Taylor did encouraged individuals to schedule appointments for picking up court documents at the clerk’s office to reduce lines.

The courts will longer allow members of the public to tune into court hearings online through live audio streams, a method used during much of the pandemic to keep the public from crowding into courtrooms.

In its decision to scrap that program, officials mentioned “widespread breaches by the public in a recent court proceeding (that) highlighted the need to return to in-person, open courtroom proceedings.”

On Wednesday, Britney Spears testified at a virtual Los Angeles County court hearing as the pop singer seeks to dissolve her court-appointed conservatorship.

Audio recordings are banned from state courts, unless allowed by a judge, and audio from Spears’ testimony was widely circulated online without the judge’s specific permission.

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