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Allegheny County Courts Reopen on Thursday, Feb. 11.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | February 10, 2010

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas was closed on Monday (February 8), open on Tuesday (February 9) and closed again on Wednesday.  As of 6:20 PM on Wednesday evening, the Wednesday closing notification had been trailing all day on the Court’s website, saying nothing about Thursday February 11.  However, the website contained a new notice that the Courts would reopen on February 11, posted at some time before 7:50 PM. In order to get this information, you must know where to look and be lucky enough to check at the right time.  There is always a chance that a new bulletin will appear on the website at a later time and the information you thought you knew is out of date.

This emergency has demonstrated that the determination to stay open, close and re-open may depend upon weather and road conditions which cannot be predicted very far in advance. In fact, the news that roads are impassable may not even be known until the morning rush hour begins.  An emergency communication system from courts to judges, the bar, court personnel and other interested parties is needed. It should be capable of instantaneously informing as many people who need to know the information as possible.

The Allegheny County Bar Association sends email alerts to its members — all of its members who sign up for such notification — frequently.  The other day, when the Federal Courts closed early, they sent such a notice.  The ACBA would undoubtedly be happy to send along the word to its members when the Allegheny County courts close and reopen.  But, unfortunately, the ACBA was also closed on Wednesday for the same snow emergency.

This raises the question whether any court ought to consider setting up its own email alert system, or arrange for a court-related office to do it.  The technology to accomplish this task is now inexpensive and readily available.  Once in place, such a system could  be used to communicate other non-emergency but vital information, such as cancellation or rescheduling of events.

Periodically checking a website might work for someone at a desktop computer who is already aware that an emergency is in progress. But the next emergency may be quite different and those who need to know may not be aware of the need to look for the information on the court’s website. An email comes to you whether or not you expect it. It is easy to get and read on an iPhone or Blackberry when you are not near a computer. This means that the emergency information sent by email will reach more people faster. And it will be cheap.

By contrast, the time of law clerks, secretaries, tipstaves and even judges making and answering a large number of telephone calls  is expensive.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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