Los Angeles Superior Court Family Law Courts Set to Reopen after Coronavirus Closure
When you heard that some businesses were being permitted to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, your first thought may have been your favorite dine-in restaurant. However, your friendly neighborhood courthouse is also up and running, or at least well on the way to doing so. The courts initially closed on March 23, 2020, more than two months ago, resulting in filing delays, increased processing times, and the rescheduling (and re-rescheduling) of various hearings on calendar. As of June 5, 2020, Long Beach, Hollywood, Inglewood, Stanley Mosk, and Pasadena Courthouses are physically up and running, but only for emergency matters, like restraining orders. The Clerk’s Office will reopen for regular matters on June 15, 2020, and court hearings are scheduled to resume on June 22, 2020.
The court’s new Here for You | Safe for You program has issued various guidelines to keep visitors safe. As might be expected from similar reopenings, these include wearing a mask or face covering at all times (though children age 3 and below, and people with documented medical exemptions and/or court-cleared disabilities are exempt from this requirement), and maintaining a six foot distance from non-household members. The court notice detailing the reopening also mentioned that visitors who remove their masks or face coverings while at the courthouse will be asked to put them back on. If they refuse to, they may be denied court services, have their hearings rescheduled, or asked to leave. If they refuse to leave the courthouse, they will be escorted out by the Sheriff’s Department. That said, the prospect of having their hearings rescheduled alone should be enough to convince people not to take their masks off, since rescheduling is generally associated with an additional wait time of at least one month (most likely several months). That’s not good for anyone who needs their court orders updated now, or as soon as immediately practicable. Court staff, too, will be donning masks; and courthouses have been decorated with posters reminding everyone of the new social distancing rules. Although the notice indicates that paper masks will be available for visitors at courthouse entrances, it does not specify whether visitors will have to pay for them, or what each court’s supply of them is like, so it would be best to bring your own mask.
Another change has to do with a visitor’s ability to simply walk into the courthouse (after passing the usual security check by the door) to conduct legal business. The court is now requiring visitors to make appointments for service, a measure intended to reduce the number of people at the courthouse, and so the risk of transmission. In other words, you can’t enter the Clerk’s Office or Self-Help Center without an appointment. You also can’t look at electronic records at the Clerk’s Office kiosks without a reservation. It’s worth noting, too, that the children’s waiting rooms are still closed, so arranging childcare before you go to court is advisable. That said, you’re not entirely out of options. You may file pleadings using the court’s File at Home form completion program or the physical dropbox on the courthouse steps (which is regularly checked by court staff); call the court clerks or self-help center for assistance; or consult with an attorney for more information.