Lawyers with hearings or trials set to take place Thursday do not need to worry about fighting through mobbed Philadelphia streets to get to court, as First Judicial District officials have announced that nearly all court services will be shut down on Feb. 8.
According to FJD administrator Joseph Evers, the civil, criminal and municipal courts in Philadelphia are set to be closed Thursday in anticipation of the parade celebrating the Philadelphia Eagles’ victory in the Super Bowl. The decision, he said, was made in the interest of safety, as up to 3 million people are expected to descend on the downtown area.
“In the interest of public safety and for our employees—they’re expecting a couple million people here—we figured it would be safer if they don’t have to come in,” Evers said. “You can enjoy the parade if you choose.”
Although most court services will be shut down for the day, Evers said the courts will conduct emergency protection from abuse hearings, bail proceedings and arraignments if needed.
Philadelphia city officials outlined parade details Tuesday morning, saying the festivities are set to begin at 11 a.m. The parade is scheduled to begin at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ home stadium, and will continue on a more than five-mile route up Broad Street to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The march is set to travel along the southeastern part of City Hall, which is where the civil cases are handled, before continuing up toward the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Although the route is not expected to pass in front of the Criminal Justice Center, which is about a block northeast from City Hall, significant road closures are expected, including several highway ramps and large swaths of Market Street, JFK Boulevard, Filbert—where the CJC is located—Broad Street and the Benjamin Franklin Expressway.
Along with transportation concerns, Evers also said city officials indicated to the court that, with so many police monitoring the parade, officers would not be able to attend any scheduled court appearances. Police, Evers noted, are key witnesses in almost every criminal proceeding at the courthouse.
“Not being there would sort of hamper everything,” he said.
When the court similarly shut down operations in 2015 when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department provided transportation for those who needed to use the court’s emergency services. Evers said similar accommodations are under consideration.
He said notices should have recently gone out to all the parties and jurors who had been set to appear for court Thursday, so those court dates can be rescheduled. Evers said similar accommodations are being considered, but nothing has been determined yet.
“We just wanted everybody to be safe and to enjoy the parade,” he said.