Greenville Municipal court holding session on the front lawn under tents

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Greenville, SC (WSPA) – A little water and sewage isn’t stopping the flow of speedy trials for a court in South Carolina.

It’s been almost two weeks since a courthouse in the northwestern part of the state flooded, so today, they started hearing cases outside.

The Greenville Municipal Court will hear cases on the front lawn this week, after flooding weeks ago.

Every space you’d see in a courtroom, is represented under the tents, the outside courtroom is a way to keep cases on the docket moving forward.

White tents set up on the front lawn of the Greenville municipal court building are set to function as a courtroom, with the judges’ bench, a place for the court clerk and even the prosecutor and the defendant … giving space to hear and plead cases.

Judge Matt Hawley has served as municipal court judge for nearly 25 years.  

“No I have never seen anything like this done before, I am aware that it has been done in the lower part of the state, in some of the small communities, because of covid” Greenville Municipal Court, Judge Matt Hawley said.

Municipal court hears traffic and criminal cases like driving under suspension and forgery with penalties less than $500 and 30 days in jail, no jury trials. Extra chairs are out to accommodate, victims, witnesses and their supporters. There was a backlog of cases from covid, shutting court down again would only add to the backlog.

“It became clear that there were other things that needed to be addressed, carpets needed to be pulled up completely instead of just being cleaned, some mold was found and so it just became a domino effect, so just as we thought we were ready to reopen, there was another problem to address.”  City of Greenville, Beth Brotherton said.

According to the judge, the three sessions of court held on Monday went smoothly, full days of court are expected the rest of the week.

This court handles tickets given out by city police, so moving away from the court building in some cases would have been unlawful.

“One, by law, we’re supposed to keep our paperwork, all the tickets all the warrants all the pending cases, vaulted when we’re not using them. Two, we’re not supposed to take any of that paperwork off the premises, under state law. Three, it’s hard to get somewhere, where there is availability for CityNet. We have a very sophisticated computer system that helps track all of our cases, both incoming and outgoing.” Judge Hawley said.

Portable air condition units pump cool air into each tent, equipped with fans, to keep the air circulating.

“Unforeseen circumstances require creative solutions and that is what the judge is doing here, he is keeping business moving.” Brotherton said.

The judge says things should be back to normal close to the end of next week.

According to officials, those postponed cases from last week will receive a new subpoena in the mail with a rescheduled court date.

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