Lawyers are often asked “what is the courthouse snow closing policy?” In response to that, I offer this musing:
THE NIGHT BEFORE MERITS
Twas the night before merits and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring, including the spouse.
The witnesses all had been prepped through the night,
in hopes they would win the mom’s custody fight.
Then the weather man posted a chance of bad snow,
and the parties all asked “do I still have to go?”
They called their attorney who said with a sigh,
“court never closes,” please don’t ask me why!
“You must fight the weather or face a default,
work at the courthouse just never halts.”
When they got there, they found that the door had been locked,
they regretted their pay had already been docked?
Then as they reloaded the packed family car,
they hoped the new court date would not be far.
All kidding aside, this can turn very ugly. When the weather is snowy, such as today, people should be extremely cautious not to just assume court is cancelled. On many, many, occasions virtually everything can seem closed for snow, yet the courthouse stays open.
Snow closings for the Maryland Courts and the Frederick County Courthouse are very, very rare. In most years the court does not close at all, despite school closings etc.
I caution you that when the radio announces: “Frederick County Government is closed” THAT DOES NOT MEAN THE COURTHOUSE IS CLOSED.
The only reliable way to determine if court is closed in your county, is to check at the following link: http://www.courts.state.md.us/administration/closingsdelays.html This is what the page looks like:
If you see your county court IS listed as closed on the website, print the page before you do anything else. You don’t want to take a chance it is a mistake. When it is corrected later in the day you may get stuck.
In criminal cases, if you miss court it is called a “Failure to Appear” or FTA. The consequences are that a judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. In a civil case, such as custody or divorce, if you miss court you risk the case may be held without you.
When that happens, it is known as a default and since no one is there to contest the testimony of the parent who did show up for court, the judge has to believe them and consequently you will lose your case.
Late starts are tricky too. If you hear that the Frederick County Courts are following a “2 hour delay” what does that mean? Does that mean your 9a.m. case starts at 11a.m. instead? Or does it mean the 11a.m. cases start on time but the 9a.m. through 11a.m. cases are cancelled?
It depends. Not all courthouses, or even all judges, follow the same policy. It may depend on the kind of case it is, how long it was scheduled to take….. etc.
The best policy is: get to the court as close to the time it opens as possible and then go to the courtroom where your case was scheduled and await instructions.
Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place
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