Judges highlight importance of justice access after hurricanes

(Copyright 2018 CNN)

Just 12 days before the start of the 2019 hurricane season, the Commission on Access to Civil Justice was briefed on a litany of problems created for the courts and those who use them during Hurricane Michael. 

The problems included the inability to get a quick hearing for divorced parents with a prohibition of taking children further than 50 miles from the other parent, unusable courthouses, a lack of working technology and more. 

Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga, chair of the access commission, said those charged with a crime got a hearing within the 24 hours as required by law.

“It’s important that people who get arrested during those days, the process continues to exist because that’s how people know the rule of law is in place,” Labarga said. "It’s very easy for tempers to flare during those times and things happen, so we need to make sure that people know a judge will hear your case immediately."

In two counties, Bay and Jackson, full courts services were down for as long as 19 days. Volunteer staff and judges from nearby counties helped fill in as judges and their staffs recovered.