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Despite some damage, 12th Circuit courthouses are open or will be soon

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'Considering the intensity of the storm, we did well. We have a very good team here in court administration that is working very well with the county'

Chief Judge Charles E. Roberts

Chief Judge Charles E. Roberts

Court facilities in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties were open – or about to reopen – a week after Hurricane Ian blasted ashore just to the south, said 12th Circuit Chief Judge Charles E. Roberts.

The 12th Circuit’s 32 judges and approximately 200 court personnel escaped injury, Roberts said.

“We do have some people who had considerable damage down in the south, but from what I understand, I don’t think anyone lost their homes,” he said. “Everyone is safe and sound, and that’s the important thing.”

The DeSoto County Courthouse suffered extensive flooding and won’t reopen until October 10, Roberts said.

“The DeSoto Courthouse was probably the worst off of the courthouses that we have in this circuit,” he said. “I learned today that they do have cable and internet, and everything is back up, so we’re hoping to be able to open on Monday.”

The Manatee County Judicial Center in Bradenton, the Judge Lynn N. Silvertooth Judicial Center, Criminal Justice Center, and treatment court offices in Sarasota reopened October 3.

The Sarasota courthouse suffered water intrusion on the second through ninth floors, he said.

“Although that has affected a few of the judges’ offices, the courtrooms are intact, and we’re continuing to do quite a bit by Zoom, so we are trying to do our best to get back on our feet, and back to business as usual, and we’re well on our way,” he said.

The South County Courthouse in Venice reopened October 4, Judge Roberts said.

“We did delay the reopening of the Venice Courthouse until Tuesday just to make sure that everything was safe, and also to have minimal impact on the employees in the south county area,” he said.

Roberts monitored the storm from Sarasota.

“I stayed in Sarasota, I was in constant communication with the court administration, the clerks’ offices, trying to coordinate things,” he said. “Personally, our house did fairly well, we lost a tree, lost some screening, but the house remained intact.”

Roberts said his home lost power for about 36 hours, but he had a generator.

“We lost our internet capability for a while, it came back, and now it’s gone again,” he said. “I can certainly live without TV and internet, the important thing was that power was restored without too much delay.”

A Florida resident since the early 1980s, Roberts survived Hurricane Charley in August of 2004 when it impacted Southwest Florida.

Like Ian, Charley was powerful Category 4 storm, but it was much more compact, Roberts recalls.

“I had some relatives in Punta Gorda and I went down there the day after and saw some of the destruction,” he said. “This is the worst I’ve been through.”

Roberts said he is pleased with his circuit’s recovery.

“Considering the intensity of the storm, we did well,” he said. “We have a very good team here in court administration that is working very well with the county.”

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