Federal, county courts take break from criminal cases

Court gavel
Signal File Photo.

Both the federal and county courts that serve Los Angeles County announced Tuesday that they will put a pause on a number of their cases in response to the recent surge of COVID-19 cases.  

In releases from their individual institutions, the Los Angeles County Superior Court stated that they would delay criminal trials for two weeks, while the United States District Court for the Central District of California said they would suspend all jury trials for a period of three weeks.  

“There is currently an alarming surge of COVID-19 cases nationwide and in the Central District of California largely due to a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 — Omicron,” read a statement from the federal court. “There has also recently been an increase of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases within the courthouses of the Central District of California.” 

“(Chef Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye’s) order has given us the flexibility for our trial courts to balance access to justice with local public safety needs,” said L.A. County Presiding Judge Eric Taylor. “Los Angeles County’s current COVID numbers warrant this relief, and I have elected to utilize this authority sparingly as we closely monitor the impact of the dual variants on our court users, judicial officers, staff and justice partners.” 

The county order is expected to be in effect Jan. 5-Jan. 19 while the federal cases, as of the publication of this story, will be halted through Jan. 24.  

The federal orders also include civil matters. The county’s civil cases will continue with judicial officers being asked to use “sound discretion” on whether to proceed with jury trials.   

“The temporary suspension of jury trials may be extended as necessary,” read the federal notice. “The Court continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic as it evolves and will provide updates concerning the Court’s operations as adjustments are made.” 

“I will continue to consult closely with L.A. County Department of Public Health officials on local conditions and any changes to public health orders and guidance during this winter surge,” Taylor said. “For the second consecutive winter, holiday gatherings have fueled widespread community transmission.” 

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