LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles County’s court system is set to expand audio and video court appearances for hearings to all 250 criminal courtrooms, starting today.

The Webex service — which had been in place in 32 courtrooms throughout the county — will be available in each criminal courtroom at nearly two-dozen courthouses, according to the court.

The program was initially launched in April, with defendants who were willing to waive their court appearances appearing via video from jail for arraignment.

“The court has prioritized and expedited remote appearance options throughout the nation’s largest trial court system to achieve social distancing and to provide safe, convenient alternatives to in-person court appearances during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile said in a statement released by the court last week. “By next month, Webex and LACourtConnect, the court-developed remote appearance solution, will be available in all litigation types throughout the court.”

Authorization of audio and video appearances will be at the judicial officer’s discretion pursuant to emergency rules from the California Judicial Council, according to the court.

Webex links will be provided to the prosecution and defense for use by clients who are not in jail, according to the court. Attorneys from the Public Defender’s Office, Alternate Public Defender’s Office and private attorneys will make the requests to judicial officers to appear via Webex, according to the court.

The courtwide expansion of audio and video appearances — part of the court’s Here For You Safe For You plan — is intended to offer alternatives to in-person court appearances during the coronavirus pandemic.

The presiding judge ordered the courts to substantially scale back operations in mid-March to comply with state and county public health directives to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.