Government shutdown causes a bit of confusion in county

LISBON – Few of the effects of the federal government shutdown, which started on Tuesday, have local implications. But that fact seemed lost on some people.

When the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate failed to come to an budgeting agreement by midnight Monday, the federal government went into a shutdown, closing non-essential departments.

Although certain federal politicians and officials, including the president may have predicted doom and gloom in speeches throughout the day, the sky did not fall throughout the day.

Despite the belief by some local residents, the county courthouses, which are funded on a local level, remained open.

In Columbiana County Common Pleas Court, a clerk reported she received a phone call from a man wanting to talk to someone about his felony case. The man’s real question revolved around whether his felony conviction from two years ago was now wiped clean due to the government shutdown.

Down on the main floor of the courthouse, a clerk in Probate Court was telling a similar story. A bride getting married this weekend was alarmed when she learned of the government shutdown. She and her groom had still had not gone to Probate Court to apply for their marriage license and with the wedding just days away, she reportedly called her mother in tears at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

A call was made the next morning to Probate Court where assurances were made, the courthouse remains open and functioning.

Judge Mark Frost has been on a Municipal Court bench for the past 12 years. Frost said Tuesday morning was the first time no defendants showed up at the appointed time for arraignments.

While it is impossible to know if their absence was due to the government shutdown concerns, one would have to wonder.

So to dispel some of those rumors from local concerned citizens, felonies have not been forgiven. Prisoners remain in their cells. The criminal and civil case files and papers from other departments at the courthouse have not been incinerated in a large bonfire in the parking lot. The local police remain on duty, still a factor for those considering having a drunken party and then speeding about the countryside.

Local government functions continue to function, at least until the next federal crisis – the debt ceiling is scheduled to expire in a little more than two weeks. Perhaps then we will be a little closer to the end of the world as we know it.