OSB Professional Liability Fund

Inclement Weather Conditions and State Court Facilities

Snow picture
February 24, 2017
by Rachel Edwards

This past winter has been difficult for many of us to handle, both personally and professionally. Whether it be your commute to and from work, your child’s school schedule, or ensuring sufficient food supply in the pantry, inclement weather conditions can be a stress-inducing phenomenon.

It can be especially difficult for attorneys facing deadlines and court appearances if the weather situation does not permit safe travel to and from the court facility. Unfortunately, there is no standard protocol for courts to follow regarding weather-induced delays and closures. Thus, courts differ as to their approach to determining whether delay or closure is appropriate, and how they choose to make that information accessible to the public. Below are several options for attorneys to determine the status of a particular court facility during inclement weather conditions.

WHERE TO GO

Oregon Judicial Department

The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) website is a good starting point. The Office of the State Court Administrator oversees the state court system, including the OJD website. If there is a known court delay or closure due to inclement weather, it will be listed at the top of the home page, near the photo of the Chief Justice. If a court notifies the state court administrator of a delay or closure of a court facility, the notice is generally posted within approximately 15 minutes. It will also be posted at the top of the affected court's home page, which can be found by going to the OJD home page, where there is a box on the right just below the photo of the Chief Justice, titled "Find a Court." Click on "Select Your Court" and choose the court from the dropdown list. Keep in mind that the state court administrator may not receive the information prior to the court delay or closure, if at all, so check the other options listed below in case the OJD website or affected court's website does not post the court delay or closure.

FlashAlert

Certain courts throughout the state subscribe to FlashAlert, a system that distributes emergency messages such as weather alerts or breaking news through either the Newswire and/or Messenger services.

FlashAlert Newswire provides information to the media for broadcast and web display. For example, a court that is subscribed to Newswire will have its closure information sent to various media sources, such as KGW News Channel 8, for a rolling broadcast at the bottom of the screen. Those emergency messages can also be distributed via an RSS feed. You can then click on the particular feed for that court without having to enter the FlashAlert site.

FlashAlert Messenger allows the public to subscribe to the messages posted on Newswire via email, text, Facebook, or Twitter. Any court marked with an asterisk (*) offers the Messenger subscription service. To set up an account for Messenger, you have to open the FlashAlert website with any browser other than Internet Explorer (e.g., Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, etc.). Be aware that courts cannot guarantee delivery via Messenger due to issues such as email spam filters and cell phone carriers dropping or delaying the delivery of messages.

On the FlashAlert main page, click on the region where the court facility is located (e.g., Portland/Vancouver/Salem), and either type in the court name or click on the link titled “Courts” or “Courts/District Attorneys” to find a list of courts. You are then sent to a separate webpage where the court will post its closure information. All state courts, and the United States District Court (Portland, Eugene, and Medford locations), subscribe to FlashAlert except for the following courts: Baker, Curry, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Lincoln, Oregon Supreme Court, Union, and Wallowa.

Court Website/Phone or Judge’s Clerk

Because some courts may not utilize the OJD or FlashAlert websites for releasing inclement weather information, or the court's information may not be received by those sites prior to the delay or closure, go to that particular court’s website or contact the court directly. The OJD’s main page has a section titled “Find a Court” where you can find any state court’s contact information and a link to its website. If a court website does not have closure information, or you suspect a closure is possible and may not have been posted, call the court’s main line to check for a recorded message. In addition, particular judges may have their own protocol for their courtrooms. If possible, contact the judge’s clerk directly if you know the judge handling your case.

In sum, don’t rely entirely on online information for court delay and closure notices. As noted above, some courts do not utilize online resources for notifications. Even if they do, the information may not reach the appropriate staff person for posting.

PRACTICE TIP: Do not assume that a court facility is closed. If you cannot find any information through these various resources, assume that the court is operating as usual.

RESOURCES

Oregon Judicial Department: http://www.courts.oregon.gov/ojd/pages/index.aspx
FlashAlert: http://www.flashalert.net/
The Weather Channel: https://weather.com/
National Weather Service: http://www.weather.gov/