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Record snowfall challenges area courthouses, judges

The historic Washington area snowfall has sent area court officials scrambling to reschedule hearings and cases, while also reaching out to prospective jurors whose jury duty summons were trumped by mother nature.

This week marked the first time in more than a decade that D.C. Superior Court was closed for more than a day due to weather. Lee F. Satterfield, the court’s chief judge, said court officials had been busy rescheduling hundreds of misdemeanor, felony, domestic relations and civil cases.

To make things simpler, the court has said cases scheduled for this week will be heard the same day next week.

For example, cases that were scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9, will be heard in the same courtroom on Tuesday, Feb. 16 -- and so on through the week. Cases that were scheduled for Monday will also resume on Tuesday, because Monday is a holiday.

The court is open Friday.

Sitting in his chambers Thursday, Satterfield acknowledged that next week will be difficult for judges, who'll have a heavy volume of hearings to oversee. “There’s going to be a lot of doubling up when everyone gets back,” he said.

The court has put a new schedule online; residents who need information can also call 202-879-1010.

District residents who had jury duty aren’t excused for another two years. Instead, Satterfield said, jurors who were expected during the snowsorm should call the juror’s office at 202-879-1517 and select an alternative date. Those who do not will receive a new summons with a date picked by the court, Satterfield said.

Across the street at the District’s federal courthouse, many judges and court staffers used the week to catch up on paperwork, including rescheduling cases.

“A number of judges have been at the courthouse working on opinions, and they are talking about how efficient it is to work when you are not interrupted, said Sheldon Shook, a spokesman for the court.

Individuals with cases at the District court or prospective jurors can call 202-354-3090 or check online.

In U.S. District Court in Alexandria, court dockets were relatively light. A court spokesperson said that hearings and jury trials will be rescheduled when the judges return to their offices and review their calendars.

The court’s website also has information about rescheduled jury duty assignments, hearings and trials.

-- Keith Alexander, Del Quentin Wilber and Jerry Markon

By Washington Post Editors  |  February 12, 2010; 7:42 AM ET
Categories:  Del Quentin Wilber , From the Courthouse , Jerry Markon , Keith L. Alexander  
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