Courts Urged to Do More to Protect Workers as Virus Ravages LA County

In the last weeks of 2020, the Covid-19 case count in Los Angeles County skyrocketed with an average of 13,000 new cases each day. As the new year dawned, daily deaths topped 200 and the county has become the U.S. epicenter for the virus with nearly 1 million cases since the pandemic began a year ago.

Yet despite the raging pandemic outside, county courthouses continue to hold indoor court hearings. The Los Angeles County Superior Court — the largest superior court system in the nation with a network of 600 courtrooms and over 5,000 employees — limits people in its buildings to essential personnel and those appearing in their cases and requires face coverings. The court encourages remote appearances and has made major changes to try and maintain regular services.

But Kate Marr, executive director of the pro bono Community Legal Aid SoCal, says the rules are not always enforced.

“We had a staff member who went to the Torrance Superior Courthouse for a hearing and there was a bailiff operating the front door and he was not wearing a mask,” Marr said in a phone interview. “You’re smacked in the face as you walk into the courthouse building: This is not something the court is taking seriously.”

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