L.A. County judges and other staff required to wear face masks in courts due to coronavirus

Alex Wigglesworth
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Miguel Espinoza holds arraignments in his courtroom via video at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center on April 21 in Los Angeles.  (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

All Los Angeles County Superior Court bench officers, which include judges, will be required to wear face coverings while on the bench or inside courthouse public areas, the court announced Saturday.

“The Court is committed to protecting the health and safety of the public, attorneys, justice partners, judicial officers and employees,” Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile said in a statement.

Each judicial officer has been provided with two face masks, as have court employees, who also are required to wear face coverings, the court said in a news release.

“By mandating that bench officers wear face coverings, we will also decrease the chances of an asymptomatic Judge or Commissioner spreading the virus to others,” Brazile said.

The court is exempt from the county’s order requiring people to wear face masks in public but has strongly encouraged their use, according to the news release. Paper masks are provided at courthouse entrances for members of the public who don’t have one, the release said.

The effort is the latest aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus as officials try to balance the need to maintain essential court functions with the safety of attorneys, judges, prosecutors and defendants.

Last month, county courts launched a program to conduct arraignments via video in a bid to reduce courthouse traffic by cutting down on prisoner transfers. In March, Brazile barred public access to the courts and delayed for 90 days all misdemeanor hearings for defendants who are out of custody. Marquee trials, including the murder trial prosecution of New York real estate scion Robert Durst, have also been delayed.

Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.