'Nothing can stop the court system'

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By Jesef Williams

A spare black Bible kept in a cabinet on the second floor of the Lancaster County Courthouse was used to administer oaths during court proceedings Tuesday.

Unlike stacks of records and other materials, the Bible survived the fire that destroyed much of the historic courthouse Monday morning.

A two-week court term was slated to start Monday at the courthouse, but was moved to the courtroom at the Municipal Justice Center on Arch Street. Despite a sudden change of venue, things appeared to flow normally Tuesday morning.

Proceedings were scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.

Judge Brooks Goldsmith entered the chambers at 10:15 a.m.

Pre-trial hearings were handled first.

The rest of the day consisted of probation violation cases and guilty pleas, Clerk of Court Jeff Hammond said.

Before the hearings began, 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield addressed the crowd on the effects from the fire. Some paperwork pertaining to this week's cases were lost.

"Obviously, we do have a records problem because of the fire," Barfield said. "So, we're going to try to recreate as much as we can."

Those appearing for trial continued to arrive at the courtroom throughout the morning.

Some of the people called Tuesday were absent. Hammond said late Tuesday he didn't have a count on the number who didn't show up.

Seventeen general sessions court cases and four probation violations were handled. Hammond said that's the typical number for a first day of court.

Those who showed up went through the same security checks as they would have at the courthouse.

Sheriff's Office Capt. Towanna Barnes, who provided security, said deputies didn't do anything differently because of Monday's events.

Barnes said one benefit of having court at the Municipal Justice Center is that it has a holding cell, unlike the courthouse.

Hammond said the MJC is a temporary fix, however.

As the county decides where to hold court in the interim, officials plan to assess what's salvageable at the courthouse.

Hammond hadn't had a chance to do that as of Tuesday morning, but he said some pending general sessions and civil files were destroyed. The county has backup files for many of the records, he said.

While pointing toward the Bible salvaged from the fire, Hammond talked of how pleased he was to have court Tuesday morning.

"I am tickled to death," Hammond said. "That shows nothing can stop the court system."

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152