(CN) — Starting Monday, all Los Angeles County Superior Court bench officers such as judges and commissioners will be required to wear face masks in public areas inside courthouses and in courtrooms as California slowly begins to reopen this month.
In an announcement on Saturday, Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile said the decision was made in order to lower the chance of infection as the court upholds its public responsibilities.
“The Court is committed to protecting the health and safety of the public, attorneys, justice partners, judicial officers and employees,” Brazile said in a statement. “Most medical and healthcare experts recommend the use of face coverings during this pandemic. Paired with the protocols for social distancing, we can help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our courthouses and communities.”
While the court is exempt from LA County’s order that requires masks to be worn in public, it previously supported wearing them in courthouses. The court already hands out masks at courthouse entrances and has provided two masks for each employee and judicial officer. Court employees were already required to wear face masks.
“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.
Other county courts have implemented similar rules, including Riverside, which is scheduled to reopen May 18, and San Bernardino, which will open May 29.
While some courts have been quick to implement rule changes, others like San Diego and Orange counties have remained mostly closed for the duration of the pandemic, cutting off access to most filings and creating a backlog.
“So while lawyers may still be able to send in the documents, the court isn’t accepting / opening / processing them at this time and they will be honored for the date the court reopens,” said Emily Cox, the court’s public information officer in an interview last month.
As of Sunday, there have been 67,165 cases of coronavirus infections in the Golden State and 2,747 deaths.