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L.A. County Courts Move To Remote Video Hearings

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After facing criticism from county attorneys and judicial advocacy groups, L.A. County will implement remote video hearings in courtrooms across the region.

The county says 32 courtrooms in 17 courthouses in each of the court’s 12 judicial districts will use the new technology.

Now, people charged with a felony or misdemeanor will have the option to be arraigned remotely using a conferencing service called WebEx.

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“The court plays an integral and vital role in slowing the spread of this deadly virus,” said Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile. “Using this WebEx technology and with the cooperation and support of our justice partners, the court is doing our part to ensure access to justice, while making our courthouses as safe as possible.”

L.A. County is the largest trial court system in the country, with 38 courthouses and more than 5,000 employees.

In March, the unions representing the county's deputy district attorneys and public defenders teamed up to sound the alarm over a lack of sanitation supplies and social distancing measures in the county's courthouses.

Nikhil Ramnaney, the president of the public defender's union, said he’s happy with the fact that attorneys will have a safer, more reliable way to do arraignments.

But he cautioned against making video arraignments a normal part of the justice system.

“The studies are very clear that video arraignments are detrimental and lead to worse outcomes for clients,” Ramnaney said.

The remote hearing effort also partners with 32 booking locations, 13 L.A County Sheriff’s Department substations, and 19 police departments.
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The courts say video pilots are underway for other type of litigation.

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