Weather shuts courthouse, but some cases proceed

Deck head to fill this space this space this space this space


Since the day the man charged with killing her best friend first appeared in court last spring, Pamela Purney vowed to attend every one of his hearings in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

When she woke up Wednesday and learned Sheriff John Tharp had reduced the driving warning to Level 2, she and her two school-aged children bundled up and drove to downtown Toledo from their home in Whitehouse.

Andrew Gustafson, who is charged in the 1983 death of Janean Brown, had a pretrial hearing before Judge Gary Cook at 9 a.m.

“We left at 10 till 7, and got here at 5 till 8,” Ms. Purney said. “[Drove] 35 mph all the way here.”

It’s a good thing they got to court early.

By midmorning — Sheriff Tharp had raised the Level 2 snow warning to Level 3 — the courthouse doors were locked and the building declared “closed” despite the fact that court proceedings, for the most part, continued as scheduled.

“Thank you for braving the weather today,” Judge Gary Cook told one defendant whose case was called for a review of his community control.

When the next defendant on the docket didn’t show up, the judge pushed the hearing back a week rather than issue an arrest warrant for his failure to appear.

“With his history of always reporting, I will give him the benefit of the doubt today,” the judge said.

Some courtrooms were dark, their staffs sent home.

Yet in three others, civil trials proceeded as planned.

The clerk of courts office remained open until 1 p.m., when the snowfall stopped and Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter let his staff go home.

“To release everyone when we went to Level 3, once we were all here, would’ve been more risky for our employees,” Mr. Quilter said.

Other offices closed soon after the Level 3 was declared. The marriage license bureau closed, and the minister on duty left when he realized there would be no weddings to perform.

Judge Michael Goulding, who planned to stay in his office all day to get caught up on work, said the decision to cancel his 2 p.m. docket was made for him.

“My druthers were to wait until lunchtime and see, are we still under a Level 3? Are the roads better? If they are then, we’ll keep our docket at 2. If not, we can reschedule things,” he said.

The courthouse already has been closed for three days this year because of weather.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: or 419-213-2134.