State courts in six Panhandle counties extend closure as Hurricane Michael recovery continues

PANAMA CITY – Damaged buildings, limited communications, restricted transportation, and compromised technology in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael mean state courts in the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit will continue court closures into next week.

Each county faces unique issues. Re-opening will happen as each county is able. Judges and courts staff are working cooperatively with county partners, state and federal responders, and judicial branch judges and personnel from around the state to restore access to justice swiftly and safely.

Here are details for the six counties of the circuit:

 Bay County: Courts are closed through Friday, October 26.

 Calhoun County: Courts are closed through Wednesday, October 24. Limited Clerk of Court’s operations are available now.

 Gulf County: Closed through Friday, October 19. Open on Monday, October 22.

 Holmes County: No court proceedings through Friday, October 26. No jury service during the week of October 22. Clerk of Court’s office is open.

 Jackson County: Courthouse closed through Friday, October 26. No jury service during the week of October 22.

 Washington County: Closed through Wednesday, October 24. No jury service during the week of October 22.

All judges and staff are safe after the storm, though many experienced property damage. Some judges and staff lost their homes and have relocated temporarily. Initial assessments of facilities and technology have been completed and continuation of operations plans have been initiated. Teams of staff from nearby circuits are scheduled to help on site.

“My chief and primary concern is to make sure our judges and staff are safe and are able to provide for the health and wellbeing of their families,” said Chief Judge Elijah Smiley. “We are working hard, under difficult circumstances, to get our operations up and provide access to our courts as soon as is safe and possible. There are many challenges. Our faith is enduring and our spirits are too large to be crushed by any storm.”