Sandy backs up 100 local court cases
SUNBURY - More than 100 legal proceedings in Northumberland County Court of Common Pleas were postponed Monday and Tuesday when Hurricane Sandy forced county officials to close down the courthouse and other county facilities.
In addition to cases at the courthouse, 18 preliminary hearings scheduled for Tuesday at the office of Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III of Shamokin had to be continued, while an additional 12 civil, non-traffic and traffic hearings were postponed Monday.
At the office of Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones of Mount Carmel, only about five cases involving summary offenses had to be continued Tuesday. Criminal hearings were held Wednesday at Jones' office, the normal day for such proceedings, when the county resumed operations.
Legal proceedings at the offices of Magisterial District Judge Benjamin Apfelbaum of Sunbury and Senior Magisterial District Judge Richard Cashman of Milton also were postponed Monday and Tuesday.
The postponements resulted in additional time and expenses for office staff involved with mailing continuances to private attorneys representing defendants and caused a backlog in court schedules that may force future delays.
Northumberland County Deputy Court Administrator Kevin O'Hearn said approximately 90 criminal cases, most of which involved guilty pleas, were continued Monday while about 25 cases dealing with juveniles, civil matters and Children and Youth Services were postponed Tuesday.
"We will try to fit as many cases as possible into the next available dates, but some will have to be continued until next year," O'Hearn said. "All the attorneys will be notified about the continuances."
O'Hearn said mailings will only have to be sent to private attorneys since county lawyers such as public defenders, district attorney staff and conflicts counselors are made aware of any changes at the courthouse through schedules or by email.
"The cost won't be that great for mailings," O'Hearn said.
The deputy court administrator said seven dates set aside for trials this month plus four holidays may result in more postponements.
O'Hearn said trials are scheduled for Nov. 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 29 and 30, plus the court has holidays on Nov. 6 (Election Day), Nov. 12 (Veterans Day), Nov. 22 and Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving).
"So it's going to be very tight fitting in any of the postponed legal proceedings this month," he said.