On October 9, 2020, still grappling with the effects of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Superior Court further delayed the resumption of most civil jury trials until 2021.
The court concluded that jury trials place participants, including jurors, at unnecessary risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the inability to socially distance in the courtroom. A typical civil jury trial with one witness testifying involves a minimum of 23 people: Judge, judicial assistant, court reporter, 12 jurors and 2 alternates, plaintiff, plaintiff’s counsel, defendant, defense counsel, and witness.
The busiest trial court in the United States bemoaned its lack of financial resources necessary to implement physical safety measures in light of the 10% reduction in its 2020-2021 fiscal year budget and the additional 5% reduction to the Court’s 2021-2022 fiscal year budget.
Consequently, the Court is giving priority to the approximately 7,000 criminal cases that must be tried to satisfy defendants’ statutory speedy trial rights prescribed in Penal Code section 1382, while continuing civil jury trials as follows:
- Certain Unlawful Detainer jury and non-jury trials resumed on October 5, 2020.
- Civil jury trials in preference cases under Code of Civil Procedure section 36 (preference due to age or health) that can be tried in compliance with social distancing protocols resumed on October 5, 2020.
- Non-jury trials in any other preference cases also resumed as of October 5, 2020.
- All other civil non-jury trials may resume on or after November 16, 2020.
- All non-preference civil jury trials may commence on or after January 4, 2021.
In the interest of safe-guarding the well-being of court users, and to enforce social distancing, the court has implemented the following notable changes:
- Persons seeking services from the Clerk’s Office, court support services, and/or the Self-Help Centers must have a prescheduled appointment, including for persons seeking restraining orders.
- All parties who use electronic filing must accept electronic service, except in those circumstances when personal service is required by law or where any of the parties are self-represented.
- Judges and attorneys must avoid in-person hearings to the greatest extent possible and to use technology to conduct hearings and other court proceedings remotely for the duration of the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic.