LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The California Judicial Council moved Monday to set bail at zero for most misdemeanor and lower-level felonies in an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by limiting the number of inmates in jails.

During a Monday afternoon teleconference, the council considered 11 emergency rules designed to ensure public safety in the courts and jails while continuing to preserve civil rights.

“[We are] trying our best to preserve rights and ultimately preserve lives,” Chief Justice Tany G. Cantil-Sakauye said. “We are at this point truly with no guidance in either history, law or precedent. And to say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation.”

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Following the vote, District Attorney Jackie Lacey and candidate for office George Gascón applauded the move.

“In Los Angeles County, we implemented a zero-bail measure last week that allows us to further reduce the number of people in county jails and courthouses,” Lacey said. “I appreciate the collaboration among criminal justice leaders in Los Angeles County that has resulted in the rapid deployment of new and innovative approaches as we work to try to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

Along with setting bail at zero for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, the council also voted to:

  • Suspend the entry of defaults in eviction cases;
  • Suspend judicial foreclosures;
  • Allow courts to require judicial proceedings and court operations be conducted remotely, with the defendant’s consent in criminal proceedings;
  • Allow defendants to appear via counsel or remote technologies for pretrial criminal hearings;
  • Prioritize hearings and orders in juvenile justice proceedings and set a structure for remote hearings and continuances;
  • Extend the timeframes for specified temporary restraining orders;
  • Extend the statutes of limitations governing civil actions; and
  • Allow electronic depositions in civil cases.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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