Officials postponed hundreds of cases this week as Rock County Courts shut down Monday and Wednesday and announced they’d do the same Thursday.
The delays will mean a more crowded court schedule in the weeks ahead, said Clerk of Courts Jackie Gackstatter.
Gackstatter said no one she talked to could remember the courts being shut down three days in one week.
Monday was the third or fourth time the courthouse was closed for weather since 1987, she said.
The courthouse was open Wednesday and will be open Thursday, but the courts will not operate because many defendants do not have reliable transportation and because a construction project is blocking courthouse parking spaces, forcing people to walk farther through the cold, Gackstatter said.
People in jail who are waiting for their first court appearances after being arrested will have to wait extra days, Gackstatter said.
Usually, the law requires anyone booked into the jail have a court hearing within 48 hours, but every Friday, and when the courts shut down, those jail stays can be extended, said Sgt. Clint Rowley at the Rock County Jail.
In such cases, the arresting officer fills out a probable-cause affidavit, which states why the arrest was made and on what charge, and Rowley or another jailer reads that information to a judge over the phone, Rowley said.
The judge decides whether to release the person, impose a cash bond payment for release or to hold the inmate until the next time the courts are operating, Rowley said.
Rock County was one of 24 courthouses that shut down on Wednesday and/or Thursday, most of them in the southern half of the state, according to an announcement by the director of state courts.
Walworth County was not on the list, but the county courts were closed Wednesday, according to an announcement on its website. As in Rock County, all hearings will be rescheduled, according to a notice on the courts’ website.
Gackstatter said anyone with a postponed hearing will receive a notice by mail of the new date.
Rock County had 278 hearings scheduled for Wednesday and 462 for Thursday, Gackstatter said. Two trials scheduled to start Monday were postponed.
Eighty people were ordered to be at the courthouse Monday for jury duty, but with the dire warnings of impending weather, some called Friday to say they would not show up, Gackstatter said.
Gackstatter did not know how the hundreds of hearings would be inserted into the courts’ schedules, as that is the job of the judges’ assistants. No one was in the judicial offices when The Gazette called shortly after 3 p.m. Wednesday. The district attorney’s office was closed, as well.
Gackstatter expected her deputy clerks, who attend hearings and update court records for each case, will be “crazy busy,” and she might have to shift workers from other office functions to work in the courtrooms.
Overtime might be needed, Gackstatter said.