Federal courthouses in the Caribbean have been knocked out by the latest blows from Hurricane Maria.
The federal courthouse on Puerto Rico remains closed indefinitely after the latest hurricane to strike the island, and the one federal courthouse on the U.S. Virgins Islands that opened after Hurricane Irma devastated the territory Sept. 6 is now also shuttered, government officials said Thursday.
The building on St. Croix, which fared significantly better during Irma and was operating during the latter part of last week, is now also closed until further notice. A spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts referred questions about the specific type and amount of damage each building sustained to the federal General Services Administration, which did not get back to ALM before publication time.
Maria knocked out power Wednesday to the entirety of Puerto Rico, which is experiencing a lengthy recession, deep debt and, as a result, a substandard power grid. Puerto Rico’s governor has said that restoring power to everyone may take months. At least one person was reported Thursday to have died as a result of the storm.
Phone calls placed to the courthouse, located in the capital of San Juan, were met with busy signals all day Thursday. The U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico has nine sitting judges, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
Cases appealed from the Puerto Rico District Court are handled by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston. Nothing on that court’s website addressed how to handle such cases.
On the website of the Third Circuit — to which cases from the Virgin Islands District Court are appealed — is the same message that appeared last week. According to that advisory, non-emergency filings such as briefs or case opening documents in a Virgin Island case that were due between Sept. 11 and Sept. 29 are now due on Sept. 30. Counsel in emergency or expedited cases should have contacted the clerk’s office by this past Tuesday regarding scheduling.
In addition to the federal courts on St. Croix, St. Thomas and in Puerto Rico, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in Key West is likewise closed until further notice, according to updates posted on the U.S. Courts’ Administrative Office’s website.