By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – The presiding judge of Los Angeles County’s court system issued an order Thursday authorizing a new set of emergency continuances in criminal cases as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite the dramatic decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County since the winter surge, the court continues to rely on this emergency authority to safely increase the number of jury trials while limiting the number of people in our courthouses,” Presiding Judge Eric C. Taylor said in a written statement. “The court cannot operate at pre-pandemic levels while the COVID-19 virus remains a concern in our community and social distancing and mask mandates are necessary.”

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He noted that court officials are “making progress in Los Angeles County to safely and carefully ramp up criminal and civil jury trials.”

The order allows for:

— the time within which a criminal trial must be held to be extended by up to 30 days in cases in which the statutory deadline would otherwise fall between April 24 and May 21;

— the time for a preliminary hearing following arraignment to be extended from 10 court days to no more than 30 court days;

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— pretrial hearings in misdemeanor cases set between April 24 and May 21 for out-of-custody defendants to be extended by 90 calendar days unless statutorily required to be held sooner and the defendant does not consent to a continuance; and

— minors taken into custody pending dependency proceedings to be held up to seven days in cases when the deadline for release would otherwise fall on or between April 24 and May 21.

Face coverings are required to be worn by everyone inside the courthouses unless they can certify a medical exemption.

In a Jan. 15 announcement announcing the COVID-19 deaths of a Superior Court traffic clerk and a court interpreter, Taylor noted that the court was continuing to “implement extensive safety measures in all of our 38 courthouses” but that “none of us is immune to this plague on our nation.”

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