Practical details of now-delayed courthouse move outlined

Published 12:58 pm Wednesday, December 1, 2021

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UPDATE: Southampton Circuit Court Clerk Rick Francis reported late Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 1, that the move of circuit court personnel and equipment to Hunterdale Elementary School that had been set to begin Friday, Dec. 3, has been delayed until likely the beginning of 2022.

The move is happening to allow for renovations to the Southampton County Courthouse that are expected to last until the end of April 2023. However, prior to these renovations, work is being done at Hunterdale Elementary to adapt it for use as a temporary courthouse.

“The Hunterdale school facility is not yet ready to receive us, and thus the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office will not be moving, or closed, next week and there will be no imminent interruption in services,” Francis stated in a Dec. 1 letter to courthouse users.

Prior to learning of the delay, Francis had been the source for the article below, outlining the practical details of the impending move, including dates of service interruption and resumption. Though the dates listed will now be irrelevant, the story below still offers an accurate picture of how things will work when the move actually happens.

“We will now likely move just into the New Year,” Francis stated. “Stay tuned for developments.”


The renovations to the Southampton County Courthouse are nearly at hand, which means the big move of Southampton Circuit Court personnel and equipment begins Friday, Dec. 3.

Rick Francis

“Dec. 2 is the last day we are in the courtroom,” Southampton Circuit Court Clerk Rick Francis said. “They are unplugging our server on the 3rd, and they tell us that we are going to be just dead to everything, not even be able to get to emails for a period of time.”

Exactly how long that period of time will be still remains unknown, but Southampton’s lower court made its move out of the courthouse building to a trailer outside Franklin’s Pretlow Street courthouse in August, and it was down for a week.

“So we’re probably assuming the same thing,” Francis said.

He noted the goal is to have the Southampton Circuit Court back up and running by Monday, Dec. 13, at Hunterdale Elementary School, with some services back that day and others returning later in December and early January. 

Hunterdale Elementary School is located at 23190 Sedley Road in Franklin.

“What they have done is we have created a courtroom in the old cafetorium, so there will be a courtroom, there’ll be security as you walk in, split — clerk’s office off one way, Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office down the hall, and we’ll be holding shop there,” Francis said.

In a letter to Southampton County Courthouse users, Francis explained that jury trials and single-defendant, day-long trials will be held at the Hunterdale Courthouse location.

Meanwhile, bench trial dockets will be heard at either Isle of Wight Circuit Court, located at 17000 Josiah Parker Circle in Isle of Wight, or Suffolk Circuit Court, located in the Mills E. Godwin Jr. Courts Building at 150 N. Main St. in Suffolk.

The expectation is that this temporary situation will continue for a year and a half while the renovations are taking place.

“We should be back in Courtland at the end of April 2023,” Francis stated in his letter.

In the meantime, the circuit court’s mailing address — P.O. Box 190, Courtland, VA 23837 — will remain unchanged, as will its fax number, phone number and email.

In his letter, Francis provided a list of court services followed by their last date of pre-move availability and the expected return date of their availability after the move.

The last day of recording of electronic or paper materials before the move is Dec. 1. Paper recording resumes Dec. 13, and electronic recording resumes Dec. 15.

Dec. 1 is the last day electronic or paper civil filings will be accepted prior to the move, and this service will resume Dec. 13.

For wills/probate, Nov. 19 was the last day of full qualifications (vacation) prior to the move, and this service resumes Dec. 13.

All Secure Remote Access accounts set to expire about the time of the courthouse move have been extended without cost.

For court costs, Dec. 1 is the last day before the move that online payments will be accepted, and this service will resume Dec. 13. Francis noted there will not be penalties assessed during this time period.

The last pre-move marriage licenses were issued Nov. 24, and issuance will resume Dec. 20.

Nov. 19 was the last pre-move day that passports were accepted. This service will resume Jan. 3.

Dec. 1 is the last day before the move for notary oaths, and Dec. 13 is the day this service is set to return.

Dec. 1 is also the last day for concealed handgun permit applications, but this service will resume Dec. 14.

The last pre-move weddings were performed Nov. 19, but weddings will resume Jan. 3 at the Hunterdale Courthouse location.

Francis also addressed genealogical research in his letter, noting that Nov. 24 was the last day of assistance in the current Records Room.

“As the vast bulk of our physical books will be stored in various classrooms, full, assisted research will not resume until we are established in the new Records Room. Until then, Brantley, Hatfield and limited access SRA will be the primary points of access.”

He stated that at Hunterdale, the public will have access to the following:

  • public view stations
  • highway plat books
  • GIS access
  • deed index books
  • microfiche and reader
  • current land (tax) book
  • will indexes and books
  • marriage indexes and books

Francis stated that the current Records Room will be disassembled and the other physical records will be stored in one of four classrooms with limited staff access only. He added that he is concerned about preserving the records, having eight dehumidifiers ready to go.

“While they don’t have room for all our records, our original, historic, paper wills and marriage documents will be stored — for the duration of construction — at the Library of Virginia in Richmond in a climate-controlled environment,” he stated.

For more information on the move and its practical implications, questions can be directed to the clerk’s office at 757-653-2200.