All four federal court districts in California have announced that they will be canceling the majority of in-person hearings due to heightened COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state. Cases will be stayed and hearings will take place online or via phone, according to the courts. The changes took effect Wednesday and will last until at least Jan. 8, according to statements released by the courts.
Hearings in the Central District of California have been canceled except for hearings on criminal duty matters, all courts are currently closed to the public, and grand jury proceedings are also suspended, District Court Executive Kiry K. Gray said in a statement. These restrictions will “ensure the continuous performance of essential functions and operations of the court in light of the [coronavirus] pandemic and the recent unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates in the Central District,” Gray said.
In the Southern District, Chief U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns ordered in-person court hearings will be halted until at least Jan. 8, and all jury and bench trials in both civil and criminal cases have been continued until Jan. 11. Grand jury proceedings have also been suspended. Aside from the ability to convene jury trials, individual district judges have discretion, on a case-by-case basis, on how to schedule in-person criminal and civil proceedings, Burns said.
In the state’s Northern District, in-person court proceedings are suspended until Jan. 3. The closures began on Tuesday. However, both the Northern District and the Eastern District of California–which is also closed to the public–will continue holding grand jury proceedings.
After resuming operations over the summer, courts across California reversed course following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest round of stay-at-home orders last week, which are triggered any time a region has fewer than 15% of its ICU beds available. The orders include travel restrictions, business closures, and masking and social distancing requirements.
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